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THE BLACK IMAGE 



OTHER POPULAR NOVELS 

— BY — 

FERGUS HUME, 

PUBLISHED BY 

WARD, LOCK & CO., Limited. 
In variously priced editions. 



THE CARETAKER. 

THE LOST PARCHMENT. 

THK MYSTERY QUEEN. 

RED MONEY. 

THE SOLITARY FARM. 

THE SPIDER. 

THE THIRTEENTH GUEST. 

NEXT DOOR. 

THE SILENT SIGNAL. 

THE RED BICYCLE. 

THE GREY DOCTOR. 




" Melicent Hurst and the goddess Hecate." 
The Black Image] IFronfisPiccc 



THE 

Black Image 



BY 

FERGUS HUME 

Author of 
Tilt Myitery oj a Hansom Cab," " The Red bicycle,'' elc. 



WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED 
LONDON, MELBOURNE AXD TORONTO 
1918 






CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER 






PAGE 


I. — THE LEGEND. 






7 


II. — THE OMEN . 






22 


III. — TROUBLE 






34 


IV. — STILL A MYSTERY . 






47 


V. — SCANDAL 






6o 


VI. — THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS 






74 


VII. — AN EXPLANATION . 






90 


VIII. — THE CURSE OF HECATE . 






104 


IX. — A NINE days' wonder . 






117 


X. — melicent's vow . 






130 


XI. — SMALL NOTHINGS . 






142 


XII. — toby's uncle 






154 


XIII.— DOUBTS 






168 


XIV. — THE SHADOW OF EVIL . 






180 


XV.— ACCIDENTS , 






192 


XVI. — MRS. print's ADVICE 






305 


XVII. DIPLOMACY . 






. 218 



15Zir72 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER 

XVIII. — A SURPRISE . 

XIX. — jum's_^story . 

XX. — LADY GIBSON'S STORY , 
XXI.- PART OF THE TRUTH 
XXII. — THE SECRET OF HECATE 
XXIII. — NEMESIS 
XXIV. — THE WHOLE TRUTH 



PAGE 
230 
242 

269 
281 
292 
307 



THE BLACK IMAGE. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE LEGEND. 



VERY impressive, quite delightful, really 
unique," gushed Lady Gibson, putting 
up her lorgnette, only to qualify her 
praise with a shrug. " But how very, very like 
a cemeter}'." 

" Without tombstones," corrected the Squire, 
who disapproved of the description as applied to 
his favourite haunt. 

" Oh, really, you know, ^Ir. Hurst, that statue 
over there looks just like a dinky tombstone, put 
up to some dear, dead thing, with gold brushing her 
bosom and all that Browning kind of poetry." 

" It is an image of Hecate, Lady Gibson." 

"How \ei"y interesting! Hecate! Hecate! 
Where have I met her ? Oh, yes ! Some one in 
'Macbeth/ isn't she ? Dear Shakespeare ; so ver^' 
sweet, you know I " 

" Hecate is the Queen of Ghosts and Shades in 
Greek mythology-," explained the Squire's brother, 
who was the encyclopaedia of the family. 

" Ghosts ! Shades ! " said Lady Gibson flippantly. 
" Is there any real difference between the two, 
Mr. Ralph ? " 



8 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

The stout, genial man laughed loudly in his 
obtrusive way. " You have me ; you have me," 
he admitted ; " but, as a matter of fact, that statue 
was erected by Sir Amyas Hurst in the reign of the 
first James, for — for " — he hesitated a trifle — " well, 
for necromantic purposes." 

" Invoking the dead, he means," interpreted the 
Squire, seeing that his guest was puzzled by the 
unusual word. 

" Ah, yes, exactly ; just what I said. A cemetery, 
a charnel-house, a graveyard." 

Although Hurst and his brother objected to the 
words, the same aptly described the place. It did 
indeed resemble a cemetery. From where the 
three stood on the ivy-clothed and moss-grown 
terrace, stretched an oblong space of ground, 
surrounded by lofty walls of black brick, looking 
all the more dreary for lack of creeping plants to 
hide their bareness. Right and left, even to the 
terminal wall, were double rows of sombre cypress- 
trees, so tall, grim and solemn as to almost exclude 
the sunlight. At the end of the oblong grew yew- 
trees, old and imposing, while in the centre of this 
funereal grove — as it truly was — stood a life-sized 
statue of Hecate, cast in lead and painted coal-black. 
The sinister goddess, with the crescent moon in 
her hair, was draped in loosely-flowing robes, and 
advanced one foot, as though about to descend the 
broken steps of the platform on which she stood. 
Her left arm was extended rigidly downward, with 
its hand grasping a scroll, Avhile the right arm, raised 
aloft, had the open palm turned towards the house, 
as if in salutation: Or perhaps, it might be — as 
Hurst explained — that a benediction was intended. 

In direct contrast to the mournful aspect of the 
place, where even the closely-shorn grass lacked 
vivid colour.^were the three people standing on the 



THE LEGEND. 9 

terrace. The men wore flannels, and Lady Gibson 
looked quite virginal in an aiiy chiffon creation from 
Paris, which had cost more than she liked to admit, 
even to her extravagant self. Although elderly, 
she was smart, up-to-date, and artificially youthful; 
invariably presenting herself to an astonished world 
as an ingenue. Painted and powdered, padded out, 
squeezed in, touched up, and fashionably coiffured, 
she looked a trifle over thirty in the daytime, and 
just twenty years of age at night, when the lights 
had pink shades. As she had reached fifty, this 
was something of a feat. 

The Squire resembled his guest in some ways, 
being a dry chip of a man, as thin and short as his 
brother was tall and stout. His face was as nature 
intended it to be, although he wore a blonde wig 
and his teeth were false. He dressed youthfully, 
and affected a jaunty demeanour, which cost him 
dear because of gout and rheumatism. Both 
Hurst and Lady Gibson \vere quite desperate in 
trying to regain their vanished youth, and on the 
whole succeeded very creditably. Without such 
efforts they would have been cast long since on the 
rubbish heap of old age. 

As for Ralph Hurst, with his heavy figure and 
rolling gait, he was too positively a philosopher 
to indulge in an unequal duel with Father Time. 
His rotund shape, his round, ruddy face, clean- 
shaven as that of a monk, his keen grey eyes and 
plentiful white locks, showed that he was content 
to grow old gracefully. And in dress he was the 
reverse of his brother, being as indifferent to what 
he wore as the Squire was particular. Creased and 
somewhat soiled flannels, a dilapidated straw hat, 
and down-at-heel dancing shoes, characterised one 
brother, while a spotless white garb, a crimson 
cummerbund, neat brown boots, and a panama 



10 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

indicated the particularity of the other. Edgar 
smoked a cigarette, trifled with a scented hand- 
kerchief, and used a monocle while he twisted his 
smart moustache. Ralph indulged in a dingy pipe, 
had a book sticking out of his pocket, and ruffled 
his hair into an untidy mop, when the conversation 
became unusually interesting. The younger man 
was of the pundit caste ; the elder a follower of 
Epicurus. It was a fraternal exhibition of Bohemia 
and Belgravia. 

" You don't object to having tea here, Lady 
Gibson ? " asked the Squire. 

" In the Sanctuary," supplemented Ralph, and 
joining in the conversation in his blundering fashion, 
for Edgar liked to have the limelight all to himself. 

"Oh, that's what it's called, I suppose? How 
perfectly charming and m^rsterious ! Tea here ? 
Why not ? So Arcadian, you know. How suggestive 
of the Garden of Sleep some one wrote ages ago. 
And Melicent can tell us the legend of the Hecate 
creature, when the tea arrives. By the way " — she 
swept the Sanctuaiy with her lorgnette vivaciously 
— " where is Melicent ? " 

" With I^Iiles," said Ralph, again joining in. 
" Can you imagine the two being apart for a single 
moment ? " 

" They will be when they many — and for many 
moments, if I knov\' anything of matrimony. Lovers 

are all very well, but married people " Here 

Lady Gibson shrugged, in Vv'hat she considered her 
inimitable way, and twirled round to shake her 
lorgnette in the Squire's face. " You naughty man, 
to leave Sylvia alone with those who don't want her. 
She should be with you, if what Mr. Ralph says 
is to be believed." 

" Sylvia's mother supplies the place of Sylvia," 
rdplied the Squire gallantly. 



THE LEGEND. it 

" Thanks for the compliment ; but she shouldn't. 
Mothers-in-law, both off and on the stage, are 
proverbially disagreeable." 

" Mine will be an exception." Hurst kissed her 
gloved hand and bowed stiffly, while Ralph smiled 
ironically at this complimenting of the frivolous 
and elderly. The sight of mutton dressed as 
lamb tickled him immensely, and with some 
difficulty he turned a natural laugh into a 
portentous sigh. 

" Why so sad ? " asked Lady Gibson gaily, as 
they descended the steps. 

" Can you ask ? My brother has been engaged 
for the last three hours to 3'our charming daughter. 
Miles is the property of my niece Melicent. But I, 

mjr dear lady " He imitated the famous shrug 

cle\'erly and sighed again. 

" There's Mademoiselle Clarice, you know," she 
suggested maliciously, " that teacher in the village, 
though what she teaches I don't know." 

" Oh, she's my brother's protegee, not mine." 

Hurst frowned. " I explained to you all about 
Mam'zel Clarice \\-hen you were here last, Lady 
Gibson," he said stiffly, " she is the daughter of my 
old tutor, who died ages ago. He married a French 
wife, and had this one daughter. After the mother 
died — she went to li\-e in Paris when her husband 
passed away — the daughter came to ask for my 
help, being penniless. I got her the post of governess 
in the Serbery Girls' School, three miles away." 

" Yes, I know," said Lady Gibson suspiciously. 
" But why doesn't she live at Serberj,* instead of in 
Grenacer ? " 

•' A whim." Hurst shrugged his spare shoulders. 
" She goes to and fro on a motor-bicycle, and rides 
very well." 

' Edgar gave her the motor-bicycle," said 



12 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Ralph significantly. " He can't do enough for the 
girl." 

" Girl ? I haven't seen her, of course, but — 
girl ? " 

" She's thirty, if you call that a girl's age," snapped 
the Squire, who was growing restive, " and I do 
what I can for her, as my old tutor did much for me. 
Her name's Brown," he added, somewhat unneces- 
sarily, " but she's called Mam'zel Clarice by every 
one here." 

" Mademoiselle Clarice," corrected Lady Gibson. 

" No, Mam'zel Clarice. We are not very good 
French scholars in these parts." 

Lady Gibson said no more, as the Squire was too 
good a match for her daughter for her to risk a 
quarrel. But she doubted Mam'zel Clarice, the more 
so because she had not seen her. With a mental 
resolve to question Mrs. Print, the housekeeper, 
about this foreigner, Lady Gibson briskly turned 
the conversation, and waved her lorgnette towards 
the house. 

" Here come Melicent and Sylvia. ! " 

" And Miles Darch," said the irrepressible Ralph, 
in his heavy, pertinacious way. 

The three who appeared on the terrace were as 
young and good-looking as the others were elderly 
and plain. Melicent was dainty, tiny and fragile, 
brown-haired, brown-eyed and alluringly attractive, 
while Sylvia, a tall brunette, looked cold, statuesque 
and imposingly handsome. Miles, the barrister 
engaged to the Squire's only child, had no excessive 
pretensions to being an Apollo. He was of the fair, 
clear-skinned Saxon type, heavily built and muscular, 
well-groomed and smart in his comfortable suit of 
grey flannel. His calm e^'es and firm mouth showed 
that he was one who could be depended upon in 
time of trouble. Not that there had been any demand 



THE LEGEND 13 

upon his reserves of strength in this direction, for 
hitherto the stream of his existence had passed 
through flowering meadows under a sunny sky. 
And, indeed, the hves of all present had been more 
or less easy-going, save that of Lady Gibson, who 
confessed to the crumpled rose-leaf of her husband's 
death. Not that she mourned the event greatly, 
although she always made capital out of it. He 
had not left her well off, and that really was a trial. 
However, now that Syh-ia M'as to marry the wealthy 
Squire, all would be well. Of course, Sylvia objected 
to the engagement, as she loved some one else. So 
ridiculous, thought the scheming mother, seeing 
that the some one else hadn't a penny and was 
merely a shabby young doctor with a limited 
practice. 

" Here we are, dad ! " cried MeHcent, dancing 
gaily down the steps, " hungry as I don't know 
what. Oh ! " — she stopped short — " where's the 
tea ? What a howling shame it isn't ready ! " 

"My dear child, how — you — do — talk," said 
Lady Gibson, feeling it her duty to be shocked. 
" I hope Sylvia will improve your speech when she 
takes the place of your lamented mother." 

" No one can take the place of my mother," 
replied the girl coldly, and retorting in the same 
way. " How — you — do — talk, Lady Gibson. Sylvia 
and I are good friends, and I hope will continue so ; 
but none of the maternal business, thank you veiy 
much," and she swept an ironical curtsey. 

Lady Gibson looked daggers, but Sylvia smiled 
in a chilly way. She was fond of Melicent, who 
had been to school with her and held her mother 
at arm's length for the same reason that Edith 
Dombey resented Mrs. Skewton's soHcitude. For 
Lady Gibson had also been carrying the girl here, 
there and everywhere in the hope of getting her a 



14 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

rich husband. She had put her up to sale, as it 
were, and now that she was sold, smiled as constantly 
as Sylvia frowned. The girl objected to being an 
odalisque, and hated her mother for having made 
her one. Also she disapproved of her parent's 
would-be juvenile flirtations, for I^dy Gibson 
likewise resembled Mrs. Ske\vton in her desire to 
look young and be adored as if she really was 
young. The pair were ill-matched, and would have 
been better apart ; but Sylvia did not wish the 
parting to come about by marriage with Edgar 
Hurst, in spite of his wealth and undeniable position 
as Lord of Grenacer Manor. Still, prudence 
counselled silence for the moment, so she merely 
smiled. But, like her mother's shrug, that smile 
contained volumes. 

Ralph broke the awkward silence which followed 
Melicent's tart speech. " I say, here's Jum," he 
cried jovially, as an active, lean lad darted down 
the steps of the terrace to carry out a laden tea- 
traJ^ arrange tables and chairs and settle the ritual 
of the meal with the celerity of lightning. 

" And who is Jum ? " asked Lady Gibson, glad 
of the interruption. " That boy ; a page. Oh, 
yes ! But the name." She shrugged. " Dear 
me. 

" I gave it to him," said Melicent, settling down 
to play hostess. " Jumbo, I christened him, because 
he isn't a bit like an elephant. Sugar, or no sugar ? 
Don't all speak at once." 

" Dear child," said Lady Gibson, with a wry 
smile, and accepting tea from the attentive Squire, 
" what an extraordinary sense of humour you have. 
If I may make a remark, I think this Jum, as you 
call him, is more like a mosquito than an 
elephant." 
^Melicent made a face, and her lover prevented her 



THE LEGEND. 15 

from answering by taking that duty upon himself. 
" Darts about, doesn't he, Lady Gibson ? A 
dragon-fly with his blue suit and bright buttons." 
" He looks like one of those dirty^ sharp little boys 
who sell newspapers." 

" That's just what he is — or rather was," said 
Hurst, dismissing Jum into the house with a glance. 
" Mrs. Print, my housekeeper, found him standing 
in London and brought him down." 

" You are altogether too philanthropic, my dear 
Mr. Hurst," said Lady Gibson languidly. "He 
may be the son of a burglar, and who knows but 
what he may admit his father into the house to 
steal." 

" I'll run the risk," said the Squire dryly. He 
found Lady Gibson something of a handful at 
times. 

" Really an awful name," murmured the lady, 
with a shrug. 

" As bad as Toby," hinted Miles, and Lady 
Gibson's eyebrows went up, while Sylvia's pale face 
grew pink. For " Toby " was the pet name of the 
shabby young doctor who aspired to the Squire's 
betrothed. 

" Ah, you're thinking of Punch and his dear little 
dog," retorted Lady Gibson. " What imagination." 
" I am noted for it, so is Melicent." 
" Ah ! well, suppose Melicent exercises hers in 
the right way." 

" In my direction," said Darch coolly. " Melicent, 
try and imagine I am a saint." 

" Oh, there are limits even to dear Melicent 's 

imagination. Now the Squire " 

" Don't say that I am a saint," interrupted 
Hurst, with a flourish of his scented handker- 
chief. " I have no opinion of saints. They are 
milksops." 



i6 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Uncle Ralph is the nearest approach to a saint 
we have in the family," said Melicent dryly. 

" My dear girl," retorted her uncle, laughing in 
his jovial way, " I am only a saint hke the serpent 
in the bamboo." 

" What's that, Uncle Ralph ? " 

" Why, the serpent is kept straight so long as it is 
in the bamboo, so I am a saint — if 3rou like to call 
me so — while I stay within the four walls of my 
library. And as a saint " 

" You're not interesting," finished Lady GibsoQ 
smartly. " Sinners are much more picturesque. 
And it is about one I wish Melicent to speak." 

" What do you mean ? " The girl looked 
puzzled. 

Lady Gibson waved her lorgnette towards the 
Hecate statue. " Tell me about Sir Amyas Hurst, 
who erected that." 

" Ah, there is no imagination about that story," 
said the girl seriously. " The legend is as true as 
taxes, and as Barkis says, ' Nothin' can be 
truer.' " 

" I don't know any one called Barkis," said Lady 
Gibson, who had never read " David Copperfield, ' 
" nor do I know Sir Amyas. Tell me about 
him." 

" Yes, do, Melicent," urged Miles, lighting a 
cigarette. " I don't know the yarn." 

Melicent glanced round and saw that every one 
was in the humour for the story, even her father 
and uncle, who knew it more or less well. And 
certainly the repetition of the legend would be 
more acceptable to the company than Lady Gibson's 
inane chatter. Sylvia, still, cold and as silent as 
ever, glanced towards the black imxage standing so 
grim and menacing on its squat platform. Composed 
as she was, the sight of its gloom amidst the yews 



THE LEGEND. 17 

and cypress-trees made her shiver — a rare sign of 
emotion with her. Somehow it seemed as though 
the statue was one of Fate — of Destiny — of Nemesis. 
There was danger in its looks and attitude. Un- 
imaginative as Sylvia was, it seemed to her as 
though, at any moment, this sinister Hecate might 
unroll the scroll she held in her hand to read there- 
from some curse which would blight the place 
and those present. Again she shivered, and Melicent 
nodded seriously. 

" Yes, Sylvia", I feel as you do. There is some- 
thing dreadful about that image which frightens 
me. It means danger and doom." 

" Pooh, child," said her father, indulgently, 
" that's nonsense." 

" Pure nonsense," chimed in Ralph. " The 
Hursts have always been lucky. Why should the 
luck change ? " 

" It will when the hand closes ; that hand which 
Hecate extends towards the house," and all present 
looked to where she pointed significantly. 

" Ah, that's part of the legend, I suppose," said 
Lady Gibson, quite unimpressed, for she was by 
no means sensiti\'e, save where her own well-being 
was concerned. " Go on, dear, I'm on fire to hear 
the sweet story." 

"It's anything but sweet," retorted Melicent 
tartly, for the speaker always said the wrong thing 
at the wrong time. " Sir Amyas lived in the reign 
of James the First, and was a great traveller for 
those days. He was for some time in Nuremberg, 
and from that city brought back a wife." 

" I can see her," cried Lady Gibson derisively, 
" a fat Teutonic Frau." 

" You do see her," said MeHcent emphatically, 
" for there she is. The statue was modelled from 
Dame Hurst, who was reported to be a witch. And 



i8 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

during the outcry against witches, which was so 
great in those days, she was burnt." 

" Oh ! " Sylvia turned pale. " How horrible.'' 

" So Sir Amy as thought, for he loved his German 
wife dearly. But he was also believed to know 
something of the Black Art ; to have a Familiar 
and practise weird rites. In some way he managed 
to escape arrest ; people said by bribery in high 
quarters. Anyhow, he continued to live quietly 
here, and had that statue cast in lead to com- 
memorate his dead wife. It was painted black to 
show that he mourned her constantly." 

" She must have been an ugly woman, and the 
black paint doesn't improve her in the least," said 
Lady Gibson superciliously. " Dear me, what odd 
fancies men take. I dare say they were the same 
silly darlings then as they are now." 

No one commented on this interesting interruption, 
so Melicent continued impressively : "Sir Amjras 
built these walls round the statue, planted the 
yew and cypress-trees, and spent the most of his 
days here. He called this place The Sanctuary, 
and so it has been called ever since. Then " — 
Melicent looked mysterious — " people began to 
disappear." 

" This becomes interesting," murmured Miles, 
opening his blue eyes. " I suppose Amyas sacrificed 
these people to the manes of his wife. Go on 
Melicent ; you freeze my blood." 

" There is nothing to laugh at. Miles," she retorted 
petulantly. "It is a very dreadful story, and 
mysterious. People did disappear. They used to 
come to the house — to this garden, and then — they 
never came out again." 

" Where were the detectives ? " said Lady Gibson, 
shocked by this crude statement. " Surely notice 
should have been given to the police ? " 



THE LEGEND. 19 

" There were no police to speak of in those days," 
said the Squire, with a laugh, " and even if there 
had been, Sir Amyas was too clever to be caught. 
In spite of his sinister reputation, he died in his bed 
and escaped the law." 

" He was reported to be a wizard, and had learned 
wizard ways from his late wife," said Ralph lazily, 
" but Edgar's wrong in saying that he died in his 
bed, although right in stating that he escaped the 
law." 

" I don't remember the legend vciy well," said 
the Squire, firing up, „ but I am certain that I 
am " 

" Wrong, my dear fellow, wholly wrong. Sir 
Amyas disappeared in the same way as his 
victims did." 

" And how did they disappear ? " asked Darch, 
raising his eyebrows. " I want details. So far as 
I can gather, they came to this place and — dis- 
appeared." 

Melicent nodded. " That is all that is known," 
she said positively, " and Sir Amyas disappeared 
in the same way." 

" What way ? " asked Lady Gibson impatiently. 
" Do explain." 

" I can't. Sir Amyas got such a bad reputation 
from people vanishing, that, as the law would do 
nothing, the country people did. They came to 
his house armed with bills and pitchforks and 
scythes to kill our ancestor." 

" He must have been something like Giles 
Retz, a kind of Bluebeard," remarked the barrister 
idly. 

" You are quite right, ]\Iiles. That was his reputa- 
tion. Sir Amyas sought refuge in this Sanctuary 
when the mob assaulted the house and — dis- 
appeared." 



20 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" He climbed over the wall/' suggested the Squire. 

" No, father. He could not have done that, as 
the peasants were all round the house. He entered 
this place and — never came out." 

" The devil took him away, maybe," said Ralph, 
with a laugh. 

" So rumour said." 

" It's more likely that there is a secret outlet 
from this place," murmured the barrister, looking 
round. 

" No. For Sir Amyas's brother, who inherited 
the property, searched, thinking that there might 
be a secret passage in which his brother was con- 
cealed. He found nothing and no one. Neither 
were any of the other people who disappeared ever 
discovered. The mystery has never been cleared 
up to this day, and the statue still stands as it 
stood then," said Melicent looking towards it. 

" It ought to be pulled down," cried Lady Gibson 
in her artless manner. " My dear Mr. Hurst, when 
you marry Sylvia, destroy the statue and put up 
one to your wife." 

" That's impossible," said the Squire, while 
Sylvia shivered at the suggestion, " for the statue 
is connected with the luck of the Hursts. I am not 
superstitious," he added gravely, " but I shrink 
from taking such a step." 

Ralph nodded. " Better let sleeping dogs lie, 
eh, Edgar ? " 

" But how is the statue connected with your 
family luck ? " asked Darch, rising to walk round 
the image and inspect it carefully. 

" Melicent will explain," said her father seriously. 

" I have explained," said the girl quickly. " It 
is stated that the luck of the Hursts will change 
should the hand of the image close. As it is now 
open, it is blessing the house and those in it. Should 



THE LEGEND. 2i 

it close, it would become a fist, as you can see, and 
then would menace the Hursts." 

" How can a statue close its hand ? " asked Miles 
contemptuously. 

" How did the statue walk in Mozart's opera 
' Don Giovanne ' ? " she retorted. 

" Oh, if you come to fairy tales, Melicent " 

" It isn't a fairy tale," insisted the girl. " So 
far we have had the best of luck. But I am sure 
that one day the luck will change." 

" And that will be " 

" When the hand of Hecate closes and becomes a 
threatening fist." 



CHAPTER II. 

THE OMEN. 

MILES DARCH greatly preferred the country 
to the town, firmly believing in the poet 
Cowley's saying, that God made the first 
and man the last. By compulsion rather than 
choice he had become a barrister, for his father — 
a Rutlandshire squire — had insisted that his son 
should enter the legal profession. Miles, adopting 
the rash policy of peace at any price, obeyed, 
although his instincts were those of a country 
gentleman. Unfortunately, he was a second son, 
and not the heir to the family estate, but there was 
compensation in the fact that from his deceased 
mother he had inherited a comfortable income of 
five hundred a year. He would rather have taken 
a farm and enjoyed life as an agriculturist, for he 
emied his elder brother in being viceroy of the 
ancestral estate. But the peace-at-any-price mistake 
— and it certainly was one — committed him to the 
law. But not to the profits, as he jokingly said, 
for so far his success as a pleader had not been 
flattering to his vanity. But he comforted himself 
with the reflection that he had not tried very hard 
to become famous. | 
The fact is, that, like many another man, over- 



■0 



THE OMEN. 23 

ruled by parental desires, Darch was a square peg 
in a round hole, and was therefore uncomfortable. 
He did his best to remedy the uneasy position by 
living in the village of Grenacer, which was in 
Essex, three miles from the town of Serbery and 
thirty miles from the metropolis. It was his college 
chum Horace Smith who afforded him the oppor- 
tunity of doing this, for the young doctor — he was 
the shabby suitor of Sylvia so greatly dishked by 
Lady Gibson — had begun to practise in the district. 
Smith had taken a roomy, old-fashioned house, too 
expensive for his meagre purse, and had suggested 
that his friend should share the same. As Miles 
was tired of living in chambers, and learned that he 
could go to town daily, he readily agreed. In thisr 
way he gratified his rural instincts and helped the 
doctor. With what Smith earned and Darch 
possessed, the two did very well, even to acquiring 
a small motor-car, which took Miles daily to catch 
the London express to Serbery% and was used by 
the doctor in his rounds, which were rather extensive. 
Darch also took charge of the garden, and enjoyed 
himself greatly in growing flowers and raising veget- 
ables, wliile Smith looked after the house, ordered the 
meals and saw that everything domestic was ship- 
shape. The two young men were looked after by 
Miss Robin, a quaint old lady of seventy, who was 
not unlike the bird, her namesake. She was their 
cook-housekeeper, and had a village girl under her, 
as housemaid, parlourmaid, and general factotum. 
These two women, together with a lad of sixteen, 
who cleaned the car, drove it on occasions, ran 
errands, and waited at table, completed the estab- 
lishment. Everything went like clockwork in this 
bachelor manage, for the two men were clever and 
capable, knowing exactly what they wanted. Then 
the inevitable serpent entered into their Paradise, 



24 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

which is a rather harsh way of saying that they fell 
in love. 

And the worst of it was that both were shot by 
Cupid at the same time and under the same circum- 
stances. Melicent returned from school at Brighton, 
and Miles, being invited to dinner by the Squire, 
who liked him, fell a victim to her fresh beauty. 
On a later occasion Sylvia, who was Melicent 's 
bosom school friend, paid her a visit, and at another 
dinner, Smith fell in love with her. And as both 
girls reciprocated the feelings of the young men, 
the course of true love certainly should have run 
smoothly. It did in the case of Melicent and her 
law^'er, since the Squire, having ascertained Miles's 
income and birth and position, approved of him as a 
son-in-law. But Lady Gibson, when introduced to 
Smith, disapproved of him immediately. He was 
poor, he had a plebeian name ; his father was 
only a moderately rich stockbroker from whom 
he had no expectations, and his position, as a 
struggling doctor, was — as she said — impossible. 
So while Miles was able to see Melicent on all 
and every occasion, Smith was prevented ever- 
lastingly from enjoying the company of Sylvia. 
This exclusion made him miserable, and he envied 
the ease with which his friend's wooing was con- 
ducted. For quite twelve months Miles lived in 
heaven, while the doctor lived in the other place, 
and although the first did his best to cheer up 
the last, the last found small solace in the comfort- 
ing of the first. The climax came when Darch, 
on the morning of the day after the Squire's 
proposal to Sylvia, broke the news to Smith. They 
were at breakfast when the thunderbolt was 
launched, but Darch permitted his friend to finish 
his meal, as he had permitted him to have a decent 
night's rest before launching it. Smith turned 



THE OMEN. 25 

pale, dropped his pipe and groaned while Miles 
sympathised. 

" I'm sorry, Toby, but it's true," he said, address- 
ing the doctor by a name which had been given 
him at Exeter College, as more appropriate to his 
looks and character than the more classical Horace. 

" Why didn't you tell me before ? " groaned Toby, 
dropping into the well-worn saddle-back chair, near 
the window. 

" I wanted you to have a good night's rest and a 
good breakfast. If I'd told you last night, you 
wouldn't have slept, and you wouldn't have eaten." 

" I'll never eat or sleep again ! " 

Being in love himself. Miles expected this astound- 
ing statement. " I knew it would hit you hard," he 
observ^ed sympathetically. 

" That confounded Squire " 

" Gently, Toby. He's MeHcent's father and has 
behaved decently to me." 

" Sorry ! All the same, he's old enough to be 
her father as well as Melicent's." 

" And rich enough to be her husband — if you 
mean Sylvia." 

" Of course I mean Sylvia. There's only one 
' her ' in the world to mc." Smith picked up his 
pipe and turned his miserable, handsome face to 
Miles. " What's to be done ? " 

" Nothing at present." 

" You are very brave with another person's 
.skin," observed Toby gloomily. " You seem to 
forget that Hurst may marry her at any moment, 
and then she will be lost to me." 

" There's many a slip between the cup and the 
lip." 

" And ' the horse is the noblest of all animals.' 
Hang your proverbs. They do not help me in the 
least." Toby turned to look out of the window, 



26 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

where the result of Darch's hard work was visible 
in a glorious display of summer flowers. " I wish 
we'd never fallen in love," groaned the doctor. 

" Speak for yourself, Toby." 

But Toby refused to take this view. " We were so 
jolly here, and were having such a good time as 
pals. Now these girls come in to upset things." 

" Lady Gibson has done that." 

" The old harridan." 

" Calling her names won't improve matters, Toby. 
Come and sit down, and let us talk over things." 

Smith returned to his saddle-back chair and 
lighted his pipe with the air of a Christian martyr. 
"It's all very well for you, Miles. Your future is 
all cut and dried. You'll marry Melicent, take away 
your five hundred a year, which helps to keep things 
going here, and " 

" Oh, if I marry I'll make some arrangement to 
help you," interposed Darch hastily, for he was 
too devoted to his chum to leave him in the 
lurch. 

Smith shook his sleek red head. His hair was 
rather red, and constituted one of Lady Gibson's 
objections to the marriage with Sylvia, since she 
always maintained that red-haired men were bad- 
tempered. " I don't want you to do that, thanks 
all the same. You'll require all your money to keep 
up a home for Sylvia." 

" Oh, she will inherit Thorswud Hall and the 
acres around it and the income, so she'll be glad 
to help you as I will." 

Toby shook his head again. " If the Squire 
marries Sylvia, things will alter, Miles. Suppose 
there's a son and heir ! " 

" Good Lord, man, don't look so far ahead." 

" It's as well to be prepared for the worst. Miles." 

" Well, I want Melicent and not the property," 



THE OMEN. 27 

said Darch after a pause. " We can exist on my 
income, and I'll buck into the law and make a 
name for myself somehow, in a murder case 
of the \\'orst ; that always means money and 
fame to a smart counsel who gets the prisoner 
acquitted." 

"Then be my counsel. Miles, for I swear I'll 
murder the Squire before he marries my girl." 

" Don't talk nibbish, Toby. Let's look how things 
stand. Hurst has five thousand a year, the Hall, and 
any amount of land in this village. On his death 
Melicent inherits the lot, and failing her, the propert}^ 
goes to Ralph. Not that he wants it, as he has a 
small income and is wholly taken up with his books. 
He's a good sort, is Uncle Ralph, and helped me to 
get the Squire's consent to my engagement." 

" Oh, he's all right," said Toby gloomily. " Ralph's 
a decent old chap, though rather a bore with his 
incessant information. Seems to like a dull life 
among his books too, and only goes to London once 
a month to attend book sales. But I don't see what 
all this has to do with my loss of Sylvia." 

" Well, it has much to do with it, if Hurst marries 
her." 

" He shan't," said Smith fiercely. " I'll screw 
his neck first." 

'' Toby ! Toby ! " 

" Oh, it's all very well repeating my name like a 
cuckoo, but you're not in the soup as I am, Miles. 
And I wonder at Sylvia ; she said she'd many no 

one but me. Told me so a dozen times, and now " 

Toby made a despairing gesture. 

" Don't be too hard on the girl," advised Darch 
gravely. " You know how her mother drives her." 

" Oh, yes, I know. Sylvia told me how the old 
Jezebel has hawked her about from pillar to post, 
from Dan to Beersheba in the hope of getting a 



28 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

wealthy son-in-law to minister to her extravagance. 
Well, she's got one now, and Sylvia's got a patched- 
up old rake of a husband who " 

" I never heard that the Squire was a rake," 
remonstrated the barrister. 

" He's all that's bad," cried Smith vindictively, 
" or he wouldn't want to become the husband of a 
young girl like Sylvia, who is a flirt and a — well, I 
won't call her names, bless her. She's driven to it. 
But if she marries old Hurst I'll curse him, and then 
he'll be as unlucky as he's been lucky." 

" Then the hand will close," said Miles, trying to 
interest this disconsolate lover in other things, and 
thinking of the legend. 

" What hand ? " Toby fell into the trap. 

Miles related the weird story told by Melicent, 
at which Smith scoffed. " I dare say it's rubbish," 
admitted the barrister, " but it impressed me." 

" What tosh ! As if the hand of a leaden image 
could close. Anyhow, it will ha\'e every reason 
to close if Hurst marries Sylvia. I'll make it hot 
for them." 

" How can you ? " Darch stared. 

" Well," said Smith slowly, " there's Mam'zel 
Clarice, you know." 

" Toby, that's tosh, as you said just now about 
the legend. Hurst only assisted that poor creature 
because she is his tutor's daughter. Report says 
that he has behaved very well to her." 

" Report doesn't know everything," snapped 
Toby, whose usually sweet temper was sorely 
ruffled. " I attended Mam'zel Clarice for a sore 
throat, and when she mentioned the Squire and his 
kindness, she gave me to understand that he meant 
to be kinder still." 

" In what way ? " 

" In the marriage way." 



THE OMEN. 29 

"Do you mean to say that Hurst offered to marry 
Miss Brown ? " 

" Miss Brown, alias Mam'zel Clarice. So she gave 
me to understand." 

" It's impossible." 

" Not more so than Hurst's marriage to Sylvia. 
Should Mam'zel get to hear of that. Miles, there will 
be trouble, and perhaps Lady Gibson will take 
offence." 

This time it was Darch who shook his head. 
" Lady Gibson will never take offence, while there 
is money to be gained. Hurst is rich and she won't 
let him slip. I'm afraid that your scheme to make 
trouble by bringing Mam'zel into the matter won't 
help." 

" I wonder if Sylvia would run away with me ? " 

" She might, and yet — the money." 

Smith heaved a sigh. " I know. It would be a 
shame to drag her down to my po\-erty. Yet I'll 
plead with her, and if she will be content to be the 
wife of a poor doctor and wait for better days, why 
then " 

" Why not see the Squire and tell him that Sylvia 
loves you ? " interrupted the lawyer, who had been 
considering matters. 

" He won't listen. Syhia's too beautiful for him 
to surrender," said Toby bitterly. " Still, if I tell 
him that Mam'zel Clarice " 

Then the unexpected happened. As if in answer 
to her name, the door of the sitting-room was dashed 
open, and on the threshold appeared the very 
woman in question. The young men rose and 
stared at her as if she had been a ghost, for there 
was something uncanny about her entrance at 
this moment when her name was thus spoken. 
Mam'zel seemed pleased by the startled looks of 
the two, and entering swiftly, closed the door with 



30 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

a bang to wave her hand in a most dramatic 
fashion. " Ah, yes. It is me ! " she declared, 
ungrammatically enough, but with the air of a 
Ristori. 

So taken aback were the men by her unexpected 
appearance that they continued to stare tongue-tied. 
She was by no means unattractive to look at, for 
although not beautiful, she possessed all the charm 
of a Parisian woman. Her hair and eyes were dark, 
her complexion rather sallow, but she had well-cut 
features, excellent teeth and a perfect figure. This 
last was attired in a rather bizarre dress of black 
silk with vivid orange trimmings, and she wore a 
transparent picture-hat adorned with feathers of 
the same striking colour. Perfectly gloved and 
booted, with her face flushed and her dangerous 
black eyes sparkling, the prosaic English name of 
Miss Brown suited her less than the picturesque 
appellation of Mam'zel Clarice. She was evidently 
in a towering passion, and looked like a fashionable 
Ate. ready to throw the apple of discord into the 
centre of the happy group under Squire Edgar 
Hurst's roof-tree. And this — as appeared later — 
was exactly what she had come to do. Meanwhile, 
she merely looked impatiently at the young men, 
who stared so hard. 

" Ah, but J am a ghost, a speerit, that you look 
so," she exclaimed impatiently, speaking with a 
strong foreign accent, but carefully, so as to avoid 
using French words, which she never did in talking 
English. " Why do you not offer the chair. Fie ! 
It is not gallant." 

" You have taken us by surprise. Miss Brown," 
said Darch, recovering himself and conducting her 
to the saddle-back vacated by the astonished 
doctor. 

" Ah, yis ; it is so, Mistar Darch. Yet you talk 



THE OMEN. 31 

of me. Is it not so ? " She looked from one to the 
other, and settled herself comfortably in the chair. 
" But I do fooHsh to ask. Talk you did. I hear 
my name." 

" Miss Brown, I- 



m 



No, no, no ! Not Mess Brouwn, doctar," she 
interrupted viciously. " Mam'zel Clarice, did you 
say when I come. The name they do call me in dis 
village. Ah, well. Mam'zel Clarice, I am when I 
do teach de girls in de school, though I am all 
Eenglesh in my talk. Is it not so ? " 

" Yes," said Darch, trying to stop the incessant 
flow of her speech and endeavouring to learn why 
she had come. " Do you wish to see the doctor, 
Mam'zel ? For if so I can retire." 

" Ah, but no. I weesh to see you and him." 
She stretched out her hand to stop Darch from 
leaving the room. " I know — and I haf come to hear 
if what I do know is true." 

" And that ? " questioned Smith, then suddenly 
became enlightened. " By jove, I can guess. You 
have heard that Hurst is engaged to Miss Gibson." 

Mam'zel jumped up with a crimson face and blazing 
eyes, screaming her answer in uncontrolled passion. 
"It is a lie ; it is not so. To me — to me " — she 
tapped her heaving breast imperatively — " Edgaar 
is to me engaged." 

The young men looked at one another. Darch 
answered, as having the surer knowledge of the 
truth. " Mr. Hurst became engaged to Miss Gibson 
yesterday." 

" No, I tell you ; it is not so. I well not haf it so. 
But I will go to de Hall to speke to dis girl and I 
will say " 

" You can say nothing, for she is not at the Hall," 
interrupted Darch, preventing her from opening the 
door, towards which she had darted unexpectedly. 



32 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" She and her mother only came down for the day." 

" Then I will see Edgaar. Ah, yis ! " she stamped. 
" He deceive me ; he meke a fool of me. We shall 
see ; we shall see." 

" But, Mam'zel " began the doctor soothingly. 

" Do not speke to me ; do not talk." She turned 
on him like a fury. " I did hear you looved dis 
girl ; dat you meke her your wife. And yet you 
let her go. Ah, poltroon, you ; coward, you." 

" Stop," said Miles authoritatively. " You 
mustn't go on like this. Why have you come 
here ? " 

" Why ? " exclaimed the infuriated woman 
violently. " I come because I do hear in the village 
dat Edgaar ask dat girl to marry him, and I come 
to ask if what dey speke of is true ? " 

"It is true. What then ? " 

" What then ? What then ? " Mam'zel turned 
purple with increasing rage. " Why, then I will 
stop dis marriage. I tell you dat Edgaar wish to 
marry me — me, who now speke to you. When 
I was but leetle, and he was study weeth my fader 
he say I would be his leetle wife. I say dat again 
when I come to ask for help from Paris. He is 
mine ; he is mine." 

" You had better tell the Squire that," said Smith, 
hope springing up in his breast, for here was a new 
and powerful ally. 

Mam'zel, who had whirled herself into a seat, 
now whirled out of it again. " I go to tell him. 
He shall not marry dat girl. Nevar, ah, nevar ! " 
and shaking her two fists in the air, she tore open 
the door to dash out of the room tempestuously. 
The two men looked at one another. 

" The Squire is going to have a bad time," said 
Toby with a chuckle, for he hoped that Mam'zel 
would prevent the sacrifice of Sylvia. 



THE OMEN. 33 

"I'll follow her," said Darch hastily, going to the 
door, which was still wide open. " I may be able 
to throw oil on the troubled waters." 

" Don't spoil my chance," urged the doctor, and 
would have tried to stop his friend from going, 
but that he was already prevented by a small boy, 
who darted into the room unexpectedly. " You, 
Jum," cried Smith, " what's up ? " 

" Only a note from Miss Melicent," said Jum, 
resplendent in a bright blue suit sparkling with 
many buttons, and so restless that he resembled 
a dragon-fly more than ever. " She wants to see 
Mr. Darch." 

" Something's wrong at the Hall," murmured 
Miles, who had already made himself acquainted 
with the contents of the note. 

" Trouble over the engagement to Sylvia ? " asked 
Smith eagerly and with a gleam of hope in his eyes. 

" No, Mehccnt doesn't say what is the matter. 
She only asks me to come at once, as something is 
wrong. Jumbo, do you know " 

" Yes, sir," interrupted the alert lad before Darch 
could finish his sentence. " The hand of the statue 
is closed." 

" What's that ? " Darch could scarcely believe 
his ears, 

" The hand of the statue in the garden's closed," 
repeated Jum patiently, and wondering why he was 
required to give the information again. 

The doctor laughed and rubbed his hands. " Then 
the luck of the Squire is clean out, if your story is 
to be believed, Miles," he said, with rglief. 

" The hand closed ! " muttered Miles, mystified, 
" It's a trick. Absurd ! " 



CHAPTER III. 

TROUBLE. 

AS it was Saturday, when Miles invariably 
stayed at home and attended to his beloved 
garden, he was easily able to obey Melicent's 
unexpected summons. Smith was as curious as his 
friend to learn the truth concerning the report 
of the closed hand, but duty called him to his 
patients. So he went his rounds in the motor, still 
fuming over Sylvia's engagement, while Darch 
strolled up to the Hall. He there expected to 
find that the change of fortune foretold by the 
clenched hand of the statue had already made a 
beginning in the form of a stormy interview between 
the Squire and the fiery Mam'zel Clarice. It might 
be that there was some truth in the legend, although, 
being very matter-of-fact, he could not bring himself 
to credit the same. But that trouble in connection 
with the engagement of Hurst to Sylvia should start 
immediately the image gave the sign was certainly 
an odd coincidence. The unexpected had happened 
with a vengeance. 

Grenacer was a pretty old-fashioned village of 
no great size, consisting of many red-brick and 
white-washed houses with tiled and thatched roofs. 
In the centre was the village green, from which a 
quartette of crooked streets branched to the four 

34 



TROUBLE. 35 

points of the compass. At one end of the village a 
small church of grey flint, with a square tower, 
stood amidst many tombstones beside the narrow 
stream. This swiftly flowing river — known as the 
Gren — flowed in a half-circle round the hamlet, 
past the Hall and into the flat meadow lands of the 
surrounding country. The alluvdal soil was rich 
with cornfields, pasture-lands, and vegetable gardens, 
presenting a peaceful picture of prosperity, and 
fining up the space between Grenacer and Serbery 
three miles distant. The inhabitants of the village 
were mostly agricultural labourers, knowing but 
little of the world and its doings, as their interests 
were entirely local. The railway from Serbery to 
London, together with the coming and going of many 
motor-cars, and the influx of summer visitors, had 
certainly brought the villagers more into touch with 
what was going on. But for the most part they 
were wedded to their old customs, to their old ideas, 
and obstinately refused to move with the times. 
A more lethargic population with narrower thoughts 
it would have been difficult to find, and they were 
quite content with their somnolent existence. Think- 
ing that what was good enough for their fathers was 
good enough for them, they made no attempt 
to improve, although both the Squire and 
the Vicar had done their best to awaken them 
from the slumber of centuries. On the whole, 
Grenacer was a Rip van Winkle kind of locality, 
in which nothing happened, or was likely to 
happen. 

Miles loved the place for this very indolence. After 
the hurry and toil of London it was pleasant to 
return to this quiet spot and take life easily. It 
must be admitted that Darch did not do justice to 
himself ; that he did not use his talents as he should 
have used them, so that they rusted for lack of 



36 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

employment. Hitherto his Hfe had been too pleasant, 
too easy and free from trouble, so that he was not 
stimulated to exert himself in any way. Had he 
lost Melicent, had he lost his income, he would 
have been compelled to move in order to recover 
what he had lost ; but having everything his own 
way, he was in great danger of passing through life 
as an idler and a slacker, Melicent, being of a more 
restless and ambitious nature, tried to mo\'e him 
from this complacency, but hitherto she had failed. 
But the time was at hand when things were about 
to change with him, and the closing of Hecate's 
hand meant the coming of trouble, which was likely 
to do him great good. At the moment Miles did 
not know this, and strolled towards the Hall little 
knowing that he was walking out of enen^ating 
sunshine into the dark clouds of stimulating adver- 
sity. Had he been told this he would have laughed 
the suggestion to scorn, and would no more have 
believed in such a prophecy than credited the 
magic closing of the statue's hand. That it was 
really closed he was obliged to believe, since Jumbo 
was too shreM'd a lad to manufacture an easily dis- 
proved lie. But Darch thought that there was 
some trick in the matter, since it was ob^aously 
impossible that a leaden image could voluntarily 
clench its fist. And what the trick was, the young 
man made up his mind to discover. For with the 
discovery of the nature of the trick, the significance 
of the legend about possible trouble would be done 
away with. And the whole thing was so ridiculous 
that Miles laughed himself to scorn for troubling 
to seek the reason. Yet, since Melicent had 
asked him to come to the Hall he felt, as a lover 
should feel, that it was imperative to obey her 
summons. 
" Who first discovered that the hand of Hecate 



TROUBLE. 37 

was closed ? " he asked Jum, who ran beside him, 
alert and bright-eyed. 

" Mrs. Frint, sir. She went in to dust and 
straighten out things in the master's study, and 
opened the door leading into the garden." 

" Why do you call that place where the image 
stands a garden, when there is not a flower within 
the four walls ? " asked Darch curiously. 

" Oh, I know it's called the Sanctuary, sir. But 
Mrs. Frint calls it the garden, so I say the same as 
she says. Mr. Ralph told me I was wrong, and asked 
me the same question as you have done, sir." 

Miles looked more particularly at the boy's 
freckled face and keen blue eyes, struck by the 
educated way in which he spoke. " Who taught 
you to talk in the way you do, Jum ? " 

" Mr. Ralph, sir. I spoke very badly when Mrs. 
Frint brought me from London, and Mr. Ralph was 
\'exed. He made me speak properly, and I want 
to learn, sir, so as to get on in the world. Mrs. Frint, 
sir, by bringing me down here, has given me a 
chance of being something better than I was, sir, 
and I hope to take advantage of the chance. I'm 
reading Smiles' 'Self-Help,' sir, and Mr. Ralph is 
teaching me lots of things." 

" Mr. Ralph is very kind, Jum. How old are 



you 



? 



" Fourteen, sir ! " 

" You seem to be a sharp lad. What do you think 
of the closing of the hand ? " 

Jum looked puzzled. " It's queer, Mr. Darch. 
I don't know what to make of it, sir, unless, being 
lead, some one has bent it." 

" Ah ! I dare say you are righc. That solution 
never occurred to me." Miles was struck by the 
clever suggestion of the boy. " But who bent the 



38 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" I don't know, sir, nor does any one else. The 
Squire, Mr. Ralph and Miss Sylvia are all surprised. 
And Mrs. Frint, sir, says it means trouble." 

" Don't let Mrs. Print's imagination run away 
with you, Jum. By the way, what is your real 
name ? " 

" Frederick Marr, sir." 

" Well, Frederick, I am pleased that a lad like 
you should try to improve yourself, and I shall do 
what I can to assist Mr. Ralph in helping you." 

Jum's ugly face beamed. "Thank you, sir; 
you are kind." 

Miles was quite interested in the boy, and saw 
that he possessed brains and perseverance above 
the common. He wondered that he had not noticed 
this cleverness before, and promised himself to 
forward the lad's aims. And indeed, remembering 
how Melicent had rebuked him for his easy-going 
ways, the barrister felt a certain sense of shame 
when he learned how much more ambitious this 
former street Arab was to get on than he was. 
" You've taught me a lesson, Jum." 

" Have I, sir ? " Jum looked frankly amazed. 

" Yes ! Now run on ahead and tell Miss Melicent 
that I am coming." 

Jum sprang forward immediately and shot up the 
axenue like an arrow from the bow, glittering all 
over in the blazing July sunshine with his many 
buttons. And at an untoward moment his few 
simple words had taught Miles a lesson. The 
barrister determined to follow this lowly example, 
and make a better use of his capabilities. It was 
odd that the hint should have been given to him 
in this way and at such a moment, when more 
serious things had to be considered. Miles did not 
know exactly what to make of it. All he knew 
was that in some \\'ay he meant to rouse himself 



TROUBLE. 39 

from his lotus-eating, and do his best to help his 
fellow-mortals. And a chance to do so was at hand 
now, since he might be able to solve the m3^stei-y 
of the closed hand, and pacif}/ Melicent's mind 
regarding the significance of the legend. With 
this idea in his head, and anxious to get to work, 
the young man quickened his pace and soon 
emerged from the avenue into the space before 
the Hall. 

The building was of mellow red brick, of Tudor 
architecture and wreathed in ivy, so that it looked 
eminently picturesque. It was encircled by smooth 
green lawns bright with bordering flower-beds, and 
was girdled at a greater distance by thick woods, 
finally ringed by a high wall of grey flint. Miles 
let his eyes rest contentedly on this beautiful old 
English home, and thought how happily he could 
live there with Melicent, letting the world go by 
and not troubling about anything. But these 
dreams were a recurrence of his lotus-visions, which 
Jum's chatter had urged him to cast aside. So 
the young man shook himself free from the longing 
for ease and idleness to spring up the steps and 
ring the bell. Contrary to ordinaiy usage, Mrs. 
Print appeared instead of the footman, and informed 
him that she did so, as the Squire had called all the 
serv-ants to his study to question them, concerning 
the mystery of the Black Image. 

■ " And I never was so took back in my born days, 
Mr. Darch," cried Mrs. Print, who was stout and 
comely and voluble, " as when I saw that hand 
closed. You might have knocked me down with a 
feather, and that ain't no easy task." 

She ended with a jolly laugh, in spite of her obvious 
perturbation, and ushered the young man into the 
house. In a blue silk dress with cherry-coloured 
ribbons, a lace cap, collar and cuffs \\'ith much 



40 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

substantial Victorian jewellery, the housekeeper 
looked rather flamboyant. Miles wondered why the 
Squire, w^ho was very particular, did not instruct 
her to wear a less striking garb. But then he 
remembered that Mrs. Print was a privileged 
person, who had been with the Hurst family ever 
since she was in her teens, and had acquired rather 
independent ways. She had been lady's maid to 
Melicent's mother ; she had nursed Melicent ; she 
had married John Frint, the Squire's bailiff, who 
was now dead, and for years had acted as an 
autocratic housekeeper, trusted by the Squire and 
liked by every one. If her taste in dress was rather 
loud, as it assuredly was, no one minded that, so 
long as everything went smoothly. And under her 
firm guidance everything did. So being a valuable 
servant, she was allowed much licence, of which 
she took full advantage, although she never over- 
stepped the mark so far as to call down reproof on 
herself. Mrs. Frint was wise in her generation, and, 
despite her oddities, knew her place. 

" One moment," said Darch, stopping her at the 
door of the Squire's study, just as she turned the 
handle. " Has Mam'zel Clarice been here ? " 

" Lor', no, sir. Whatever should she come here 
for to-day, even though 'tis Saturda^r and she ain't 
gone to Serbery ? " 

*' She called on me this morning and said that she 
was coming here." 

" Like her imperence," cried Mrs. Frint, tossing 
her head, so that the cherry-coloured ribbons in her 
lace cap fluttered. " I never did hold with that gel, 
sir, though why I should call her gel when she's 
thirty, and more, if she's a day, I do not know. The 
Squire spiles her, Mr. Darch, if you arsk me." 

" It's his kind heart, Mrs. Frint, as she is the 
daughter of his old tutor." 



TROUBLE. 41 

" I never liked that tutor, with his sneaking ways, 
and I never Hked his wife, French and forrein as she 
was, Mr. Darch. As to the gel, she set her cap at 
the Squire when she come here arsking for help. 
But Miss Sylvia's put her nose out of joint, not 
that I hold with the Squire merrying again at his 
age. But there, I'm forking scandal, sir, which ain't 
proper." 

She opened the door and ushered Miles into the 
Squire's favourite room, which he termed his study. 
The real library was the haunt of Ralph, and was 
on the other side of the house, near the drawing- 
room. The study had one door, through which 
Miles was entering at the moment, and another 
which led out into the Sanctuary, flanked by two 
narrow windows. It was not a large room, and was 
filled with old-fashioned furniture, consisting of a 
table, a desk, a sofa and several chairs, all of 
mahogany. On the red-papered walls were steel 
engravings and trophies of arms, these last being 
an inheritance from Hurst's father, who had a craze 
for collecting weapons. There were mediaeval 
swords, Afghan knives. Eastern daggers.Zulu assagais 
and South Sea spears. In fact the place was quite 
an armoury of warlike weapons, and although 
Hurst had no liking for such militaiy things, he 
let them remain where they were from habit. It 
was strange with his fastidious tastes that he did 
this, as these things gave an air of menace to the 
room, and produced a somewhat uncomfortable 
atmosphere. 

"I see the Squire's got the servants in the 
garden," remarked Mrs. Print, misnaming the 
Sanctuary, as Jum said that she always did. " Go 
down to him there, sir, for I've got work to attend 
to. You'll find Mr. Ralph and Miss Sylvia there 
also." 



42 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

When the housekeeper went out of one door, 
Miles went out of the other, and found himself 
in the gloomy vSanctuary to which there was no 
entrance save through the study. Hurst was 
there, with his brother on one side of him and 
Melicent on the other, questioning the servants, 
who crowded the place to the number of six. Just 
as Darch arrived, the examination evidently came 
to an end, for the servants, being dismissed, filed 
past the new-comer, through the study and into 
the back parts of the house. Miles walked towards 
the statue to be welcomed by the three, who stood 
near the platform, looking all equally puzzled. 
And Miles, in spite of being forewarned, was puzzled 
also, when he saw that the right hand of the 
image was distinctly clenched in a menacing way. 
It looked as though it was about to throw 
something at the house, which directly faced it. 
Perhaps bad luck, as Miles immediately said with 
a shrug and a smile, to show that he did not 
mean his observation to be taken seriously. But 
Melicent promptly accepted the suggestion in all 
earnestness. 

" It docs mean bad luck," she insisted anxiously. 

" Don't be silly, child," said Hurst sharply, 
" How can a leaden image like that do mischief ? 
Nonsense ! Nonsense ! Nonsense ! " 

" I agree," remarked Ralph, laying hold of the 
ladder, which had been reared against the statue 
to examine the hand. " We are all making a 
mountain out of a mole-hill." 

" Nonsense," said the Squire again. " You are 
not, Ralph, and I am not. Only the servants talk 
so foolishly because that silly legend is current in 
the house and village. But they are all uneducated 
people, not like Melicent, who has been to school, 
and should know better." 



TROUBLE. 43 

" She doesn't mean what she says," said Allies 
soothingly. 

" Oh, yes, she does," rejoined the girl tartly. 
" The legend says that when the hand is closed 
bad luck will come to the Hursts. And you can't 
deny. Miles, that the hand is closed." 

" W'hat about the bad luck ? Anything wrong 
as yet ? " 

'' There is Lime enough for that to come," said 
Mehcent gloomily. 

" My dear." Ralph laid his great hand on his 
niece's shoulder, " you are obsessed by the legend. 
Put it out of your mind." 

" How can I, Uncle Ralph, when I see, as you 
can see, that the hand is closed ? " 

"Oh, that's a trick," said Darch promptly. 

" What do you mean ? " asked the Squire 
excitedly. " Can you explain." 

" That clever lad Jum explained, I rather think. 
He gave me an idea. But before I tell it to you, 
let me have a look at the hand." 

Ralph nodded in a satisfied way. " I'm glad to 
hear you talk like that, my boy. Explain and set 
]\Iehcent's mind at rest," and with a jovial laugh 
designed to comfort the girl, he held the ladder 
up, which Darch nimbly mounted. 

" The hand is certainly closed," remarked Miles, 
somewhat unnecessarily, when making his ex- 
amination. " The fingers and thumb are bent 
inward towards the palm, with the thumb 
outside." 

" We've seen that for ourselves," snapped the 
Squire. " What is your explanation, or rather 
Jum's explanation ? " 

"He suggests that some one has bent the fingers 
into the present shape." 

Ralph laughed loudly and slapped his massive 



44 THE^BLACK IMAGE. 

thigh. " Good for Jum. I ahvays did think 
that boy was clever, and so took an interest in 
him." 

" Much too great an interest," said Hurst 
crossly. 

" You can't say that, Edgar, now that Jum 
has solved the mystery. If I hadn't stimulated his 
sharp brains, he would not have hit upon the 
solution." 

" How can the fingers be bent ? " asked Mehcent, 
not anxious to give up her weird idea of supernatural 
influences. 

" Easily enough," said Miles from the ladder on 
which he was perched. " The statue is of lead, and 
it only requires a little force to twist the fingers 
and the hand." 

" Try if you can do so," she said, getting on to 
the platform on which the image stood, and standing 
on tip-toe. 

Miles did tiy, and laboured hard to open the 
hand by bending the fingers outward. But this he 
could not do, and was not even successful with the 
thumb, which, being on the outside of the fingers, 
was more easily dealt with. In spite of his efforts 
the hand remained obstinately closed. " All the 
same, I beHeve the boy's explanation is the right 
one." 

" It isn't," cried the girl obstinately. " If the 
hand could be closed in that way it could be opened 
in that way. The statue has done it itself, as a sign 
that misfortune is coming to us." 

" Mehcent," said her father, exasperated by this 
childish speech, " how can an educated girl like 
you talk such absolute rubbish ? A thing of lead 
and paint cannot act as if it were alive." 

" Amyas Hurst was a wizard and put a spell on it." 

" Are you crazy ? " 



TROUBLE. 45 

" I don't know what I am," said Melicent, who 
was pale and upset. "All I do know is that^ the 
hand is closed and that misfortune is coming." 

" And I say that Jum's explanation is correct. 
The hand has been closed by some one bending the 
lead, as a practical joke," said Miles, jumping 
down from the ladder. " Hum ! I wonder if Jum 
is the joker." 

" If he were, he would hardly explain his joke," 
said Ralph dryly. 

" I'll see him' and make him explain," said the 
Squire, moving towards the house. " He went on 
your errand, Melicent, while I was examining the 
serv^ants. All have been questioned save Jum— 
silly name that it is. The boy is clever enough and 
mischievous enough to do what Miles suggests. 
If he has done this, he'll go back to London straight 
away." 

" Oh, no, father." 

" Oh, yes. How dare the boy meddle with the 
statue." 

" We haven't proved that he has done so yet," 
said Miles, with a shrug and rather sorry that he 
had suggested the boy's implication in the business, 
" and if you turn him out, Smith and I will take 
him as our page. He is too promising a lad to be 
allowed to go back to the gutter." 

" It's the boy's doing," insisted the Squire, 
who never let go of an idea when it entered his 
obstinate brain. " I'm sure he bent the fingers 
in the way you described. No one else could have 
done it." 

The four were in the study by this time, and it 
looked gloomy after the bright sunshine out-of-doors. 
Mehcent, particularly prone to the effects of light 
and shade, felt more than ever the approach of 
some misfortune, and annoyed her father by 



46 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

repeating her conviction that bad luck was coming 
to the house. 

" Oh, rubbish," he said angrily. " Who can 
bring it ? " 

The answer came from Mam'zel Clarice, who 
flung the door \aolently open as Hurst asked the 
question. 



CHAPTER IV. 

STILL A MYSTERY. 

HAVING entered the room as violently as she 
had done the one in his own house, Miles 
expected that Mam'zel Clarice would behave 
as tempestuously. But, for the moment, although 
labouring under violent excitement, she restrained 
herself, great as was evidently the effort to do so. 
She now carried a small bag and a crimson sunshade, 
but still wore the black gown and picture-hat with 
their orange-hued trimmings. Hurst frowned im- 
patiently when he saw her pale face and brilliant 
eyes, but did not seem to be in any way afraid 
of the woman. This led Darch to surmise that 
Mam'zel Clarice had told a cock-and-bull story 
regarding the attentions of the Squire to her 
charming but uncontrolled self. 

" I can't see you at present, Miss Brown. I am 
engaged," said Hurst, advancing to open again the 
door which she had closed. 

The woman's face flushed, her eyes sparkled, and 
her nostrils dilated; all signs of a coming storm. 
Yet she still held her passions in check. " I will 
not kip you ver' long, Mistar Hurst. It is important 
what I now ask." 

" What do you ask ? " 

17 



48 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Is it so, dat you are engaged to dat Mess 
Gibson ? " 

Ralph stared, and so did Melicent, for the question 
was wholly unexpected. And by none more so than 
the Squire, who looked indignant. " By what right 
do you come and ask a thing which concerns myself 
only ? " 

" Ah. It is, then, true. This Eenglesh Mees 
is to be your wife. But I " — she struck her 
breast, working herself up into a rage — " what of 
me?" 

" What of you ! " Mr. Hurst looked bewildered. 

"Is it me — Clarice Brouwn, dat you trow over, 
like dust and rags ? I who do loove you, and I, 
you do loove." 

" Are you mad ? " Hurst turned crimson with 
rage, while Ralph frowned. 

" Edgar, what is this ? " he asked severely, for he 
was jealous of the family dignity. 

" This is my private business," retorted the Squire, 
turning on him angrily. " Don't you meddle. Go 
away, and take the young people with you." 

" Ah, but no. It will not be," cried Mam'zel 
Clarice, who had her back to the door, and refused 
to move in reply to the Squire's imperious gesture. 
" I wish to know if you trow me to de dogs. All sail 
leeson ; your child, your brothar, and dat young 
man." 

" You are quite mad coming here and'^talking 
in this way," said the poor Squire, who evidently 
was perfectly innocent of any attachment to the 
lady. 

" You meke me mad. Ah, yis. I go mad. I am 
Opheha in de play. Oh, my Edgaar, do not be 
unkin'. You loove me ; you wish to meke me your 
wife." 

" I never did. It's a lie," shouted the Squire, 



STILL A IMYSTERY. 49 

stirred up to fuiy. " I never said a word to you the 
whole world might not hear." 

" WTien I a leetle child you say you loove me and 
dat you meke me your wife when I become beeg," 
said Mam'zel doggedly. 

" Is this true, father ? " asked Melicent in a 
scared voice, for she had no particular liking for the 
woman, who was so theatrical and violent. 

" True. Yes — in a measure." 

" Aha." Mam'zel drew a deep breath of gratifica- 
tion, thinking she had achieved a victory, " Den 
you will trow over dat girl, dat de veelage say you 
marry, and I — yis — I, your own Clarice, will be 
your looving wife." 

The position was so ridiculous that Miles expected 
to see Hurst take the woman by the shoulders and 
thrust her out of the room. But he restrained 
himself nobly, and spoke in a remarkably quiet 
way. 

" Miss Brown, you are making a mistake. When 
you were a child I did say what you mention. You 
were pretty and engaging and, as a young man will, 
I made much of you when I went to see your father. 
But now you are a woman — and one of thirty " — 
Mam'zel winced \'isibly — " you must see that you 
are talking nibbish." 

" You marry me. I come to dis veelage dat you 
marry me." 

" Don't talk nonsense," interposed Ralph, before 
his brother could speak. " It is ridiculous to think 
that Edgar wants anything to do with you. I know 
how kindly he treated your drunken old father, and 
how he pensioned your mother when your father 
died and she took you to Paris. And in return for 
all this you come here on a blackmailing excursion." 

" It is not so. Ah, no, you speke cruel." 

" I'll speak still more cruelly," retorted Ralph 

D 



50 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

indignantly. " If I were Edgar I would call in 
the police." 

"You mean well, Ralph ; but let me deal with 
this matter. There is not a shadow of proof that 
I ever wanted to many Miss Brown." 

" Dere Is ! dere is." Miss Brown hastily produced 
a small packet of letters from her bag, and untied 
the ribbon which bound them. " See, see " — she 
threw the loose letters at the Squire, and they were 
scattered all over the carpet — " dos are whaat you 
say when I was a child." 

Hurst made no attempt to pick up the letters, 
although Melicent stooped to take a couple. " Miss 
Brown, don't be a fool," he said, laughmg con- 
temptuously. " Ihis is a mere farce. When you 
were a child I wrote you little notes sending dolls 
and sweets and such-like things." 

" You did promise to marry me. Ah, yis," she 
said sullenly. 

" As a child, yes. One always says such things to 
children. Well, Melicent, I see you "are reading some 
of the letters. What do they say ? " 

" Only that you are sending dolls and other toys 
as you said, father. Mam'zel Clarice, you really 
are talking nonsense. My father is going to marry 
Miss Gibson. He never had any idea of marrying 
you." 

" I am here, and I stay," said Mam'zel deter- 
minedly, folding her arms. " I come to dis veelage 
to marry my Edgaar." 

" You came because you were left penniless by 
the death of your mother and wished for help," 
cried the Squire, thoroughly enraged, " and like a 
fool I got you that post of French governess at the 
Serbery School. Go away, Miss Brown, and don't 
make a fool of yourself." 

The woman bent and picked up the fallen 



STILL A MYSTERY. 51 

letters, weeping as she did so. "I hear vot you 
say. Haf you the heart to tell me dat you loove 
me not ? " 

" Yes, I have. You are placing me in a ridiculous 
position." 

" Ah, you are weecked, Mistar Hurst." She 
thrust the letters into her bag, and closing it with a 
snap, dried her tears. " But I will many you. I 
am your dea-ar lettle wife ; you say so when I was 
a leetle child. Oh, come " — she advanced as the 
Squire retreated—" let me trow des aarms roun' dat 
sweet neck." 

" Confound it," shouted the Squire, while Ralph 
burst out laughing. And, indeed, Miles laughed 
also, as the scene was purely farcical. " Let go, 
woman; let go." 

But Mam'zel, who had her arms round his neck, 
would not let go. Hurst was a small man, and she 
a tall woman, wiry and lean, so he was quite unable 
to resist her unwelcome caresses. " I loove you, 
my de-a-ar one," she said shrilly, and kissed him. 

While Hurst choked with rage, Ralph, who 
thought that matters had gone far enough, seized 
Mam'zel by the shoulders and twisted her across 
the room. "She was forced to let go her grip of the 
Squire, and reeled against the door in a furious 
rage, with her hat off and her hair down. She burst 
out into a torrent of abusive French, then seeing 
that she was not understood — for none of her 
Hsteners could follow her rapid dcliveiy in a foreign 
tongue— she again took to her laboured English of 
the broken kind she affected. 

" I am scor-rned," she hissed, quite in a trans- 
pontine style. " I am despis — ed. You trow me 
down ; you tread on me. Coward. Infamous 

poltroon " 

" Oh, get out," interrupted Darch unceremoniously^ 



52 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

and opened the door for the exit of this too 
dramatic lady. " We've had enough of this." 

" Take her away ; take her away," breathed the 
exasperated Squire, wiping his heated face with his 
scented handkerchief. " Never let her come here 
again." 

" I will be revenged," shrieked Mam'zel, and 
before Miles could seize her arm she had snatched a 
barbaric, ugly-looking knife from one of the trophies 
on the wall, and M^as hurling herself forward on the 
Squire. Hurst had fallen back into a chair, and was 
absolutely defenceless, so a tragedy would un- 
doubtedly ,have ensued had not Ralph dashed the 
madwoman — for she was little else — aside with 
considerable force. Melicent cried aloud as Miles 
came forward to help, and flung herself before her 
father to shield him. Mam'zel would have un- 
doubtedly made a second attempt, but that Ralph 
promptly wrested the knife out of her grip, flung 
it on the floor, and seized her like a baby in his big 
arms. Mrs. Print and the servants, attracted 
by the shrieks of the governess, came rushing into 
the hall to behold Ralph carrying out the cause of 
the disturbance. Miss Brown kicked and screamed, 
babbled in a mixture of French and English, and did 
her best to escape. But those great arms held her, 
and Ralph deposited her on the gravel before the 
hall door, in a breathless and dishevelled condition. 

" Peeg ! Peeg ! Oh, peeg ! " gasped Mam'zel 
while the Squire and Melicent, together with the 
servants, thronged on to the steps. " I keel you." 

" You mustn't keel any one," mocked Ralph, 
and- bent towards her to whisper in her ears sharply 
and shortly. 

As if by magic, Mam'zel became calm, coiled up 
her hair, adjusted her hat, smoothed her dress, and 
saw that her bag and sunshade were returned — 



STILL A MYSTERY. 53 

which they were, by Mrs. Frint throwing them at her 
feet. "I go," said the angry woman, with an evil 
and meaning smile. " But I come again. Then, 
ah, then, my dea-ar Edgaar, you will suf!ar. I keel 
you ; I keel you." 

" Then you'll be hanged," said Ralph, smiling. 

" I care not dat." Mam'zel snapped her fingers. 
" I am no child to be so behaved to. I keel heem. 
Bah ! " She spat in the direction of the furious 
Squire, turned on her heel and went rapidly down 
the avenue. The echoes of Ralph's laughter 
followed her. 

" Mrs. Frint. Thomas ! " — this to the footman — 
" never let that woman enter this house again. 
And I hope," added Ralph, turning towards his 
brother, " that I don't usurp your privilege in saying 
as much, Edgar." 

" No, no ! " murmured Hurst, who was leaning 
in an exhausted condition on his daughter's arm. 
" I have to thank you for saving my life. There ! 
There ! " he went on testily, as Mrs. Frint came 
forward with a smelling-bottle, " that's enough. 
I'm all right. Melicent, help me back to the 
study." 

The girl did so, as the Squire really was greatly 
upset by the scene which had taken place. He 
looked much older than usual ; his wig had fallen off, 
and he breathed with difficulty. However, a glass 
of port wine brought by Ralph, who insisted upon 
his drinking the same, a brush down and a short 
rest in an arm-chair soon made him look more like 
himself. When he again resumed his wig — the 
falling off of which annoyed him considerably — he 
grew calmer, and protested that he was quite 
innocent of having in any way encouraged Mam'zel 
Clarice, or, as he persistently called her. Miss 
Brown. 



54 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" I can only find one excuse for her extraordinary 
behaviour," said the unfortunate Httle man, who 
was more sinned against than sinning, " and that 
is her father." 

" Her father ? " asked Miles, looking puzzled. 

" He drank," said Hurst solemnly, " and I fear 
this miserable woman takes after him. I hope I'll 
never see her again." 

" I hope you won't, Edgar," chimed in Ralph, 
looking more serious than was his custom. " She 
might kill you." 

" Oh, nonsense ! She was only out of her mind 
for the time being." 

" Well, I hope she won't be out of her mind 
again and come here," said Ralph dryly, and 
picking up the Afghan knife, which still lay on the 
floor. " This is a nasty weapon to stick you with, 
Edgar." 

" Uncle Ralph "— Melicent shuddered—" don't 
talk like that." 

" My dear child, you must look facts in the face. 
Mam'zel is dangerous, and I advise that the police 
should be told to keep an eye on her." 

" No, no," said the Squire sharply. " I should 
only be made a laughing-stock, because of the 
woman's absurd claim. She is a fool, but not 
dangerous." 

" She wasn't over-safe with that knife, Mr. 
Hurst," said Miles, who was inclined to side with 
Ralph and suggest precautions. 

" Oh, that was only temper for the time being. 
Besides, she won't be allowed into the house again. 
Also, for her own sake she will not do anything, 
lest she should lose her situation." 

" A woman will wreck continents to get her own 
way," said Ralph significantly. " However, if you 
won't, you won't. I'jm going to the library. By the 



STILL A MYSTERY. 55 

way, are you going to question Jum about the 
closing of the hand ? " 

" No. I feel too much shaken. I shall lie down," 
said the Squire nervously. 

" Then I'll call him into the library and question 
him myself," said his brother briskly, and went off, 
humming a tune. 

" Melicent," said her father, when Ralph was out 
of the room, " go and warn Mrs. Frint to tell the 
servants that they must not speak of this scene. I 
don't want it known in the village. If the story gets 
about, it may come to Lady Gibson's ears, and she 
will make trouble. Go, child, go." 

Melicent, knowing what a difficult person Lady 
Gibson was, saw the sense of these instnictions, and 
went promptly on her errand. Darch was left alone 
with his host, who lay back in his chair with closed 
eyes, more shaken than he chose to confess. It 
then occurred to the barrister that he might put 
in a word for his friend. 

" Have you made up your mind to marry Miss 
Gibson ? " asked Miles quietly. 

Hurst opened his eyes in amazement. " Of course. 
I proposed to her yesterday, and she is willing 
to become my wife. Why do you ask ? " 

" Well — er — that is — you see " 

" Come ! Come ! Come ! What is it ? " 

" She might love some one else," said Darch in 
desperation. 

" I know something about that. Young Smith. 
Eh?" 

" Yes." Miles was surprised at the promptitude 
with which Hurst grasped the situation. " Do 
you know " 

" I know all that Lady Gibson could tell me," 
retorted the Squire, cutting him short. " There was 
SI kind of flirtation between ■■■ 



56 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" There is no ' was ' about it," interrupted 
Darch in his turn, " nor is there any flirtation. 
Toby loves Sylvia dearly." 

" I don't care what ridiculous name you call your 
friend," snapped Hurst irrelevantly; "but I prefer 
that you should call my future wife Miss Gibson." 

" Certainly," agreed Miles sarcastically. " Well, 
then, Miss Gibson loves my friend Dr. Horace 
Smith. Will that do ? " 

" No, it won't," said the Squire, whose temper 
was considerably ruffled by the scene with Mam'zel, 
" and don't be ironical. Though you are engaged 
to Melicent, you are not to take liberties." 

" I don't want to, Mr. Hurst. But I repeat that 
Miss Gibson " 

" Loves the doctor. Nonsense. If she did she 
would not have accepted me." 

" You are rich and Smith is poor," said Darch 
significantly. 

" Meaning that she is marrying me for my money ?" 
was the angry retort. 

" No. I believe that Miss Gibson would marry 
Toby, poor as he is." 

" Then why did she accept me ? " 

Miles fenced. " Lady Gibson is a clever woman ! " 

"I'm not marrying Lady Gibson." 

" Well, Squire," said the barrister, tired of beating 
about the bush, "all I can say is that if you really 
love Miss Gibson, you would make her happy by 
persuading her mother to let her marry Smith." 

" I'm not going to cut off my nose to spite my 
face for anyone," cried the little man, highl}^ 
exasperated, " and as to loving Sylvia, I am past 
the stage of red-hot passion." 

" So I think," observed Miles unwisely. 

" I'm only fifty-six, confound you," raged Hurst, 
getting up from his chair in what children call 



STILL A MYSTERY. 57 

" a paddy." " I'm young enough to marry again. 
I admire Sylvia ; I like her ; I think she will look 
well at the head of my table, and will be an admirable 
mistress of the Hall. I give her money and position, 
asking in return " 

" Love ? " 

" Nothing of the sort. I'm content to be respected 
and looked after. I ask her for an heir to the 
property. And because I may become the father of 
a boy to inherit, you object to the marriage." 

" If you think that I speculate on Melicent being 
your heiress, and on your death you are quite 
wrong," said Miles, with a calmness he was far 
from feeling. " I don't want your money, or your 
property, as I have sufficient to support my future 
wife in comfort. Leave the estate to your brother 
if you like. I don't care, nor does Melicent." 

" You know perfectly well that I^alph doesn't 
want to be worried with the estate. He likes a 
quiet life in the library. As to your talk of Sylvia's 
being in love with young Smith, that's all flirtation. 
Lady Gibson said as much, and she's a shrewd judge 
of character." 

" Lady Gibson says whatever it suits her to say," 
said Miles injudiciously. 

" And so do you, and so do I, and so do all. 
Anyhow, I'm going to marry her daughter, and the 
doctor can go hang for me. Upon my word," cried 
the Squire, flouncing about the room in a petty 
rage," I don't see why I should be bothered by 
strangers poking their confounded noses into my 
affairs. First that infernal Brown woman, and now 

you. And — and " He faltered, gasped, laid 

his hand on his heart, and would have collapsed 
on to the floor, but that Miles received him in his 
arms. 

" Th«re ! there," said the young man soothingly. 



58 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

as he deposited Hurst in the arm-chair. " I apologise. 
I only pleaded for Toby, because he is so miserable, 
poor chap. Don't worry, Squire, or you'll be ill." 

" I'm ill enough as it is, and you have made me 
ill," said the other sullenly, " and I wish you and 
Miss Brown and the statue and the whole lot of 
you were at the bottom of the sea. Frint ! Frint ! 
Ring the bell for Frint, hang you." 

Seeing that the old man was growing alarmingly 
violent. Miles did so, and when the footman came, 
told him to summon the housekeeper. She entered 
a few minutes later along with Melicent, who had 
delivered her message regarding the requested silence 
of the Hall servants. In a querulous tone the Squire 
insisted that Mrs. Frint should take him to his bed- 
room, as he wanted to lie down and sleep off the late 
excitement. He angrily refused Melicent's offer to 
help him. 

" Stay with Miles and teach him sense," snarled 
Hurst, making for the door on the housekeeper's 
substantial arm. " Meddling with my business, 
indeed. I wonder what next." He faced round at 
the door. " I tell you what next, Darch — the 
breaking of your engagement to my daughter," 
and with another snarl he lurched heavily away, 
supported by the astonished Mrs. Frint. 

Melicent was astonished also. " What is the 
matter ? " 

"I've only been suggesting that Sylvia should 
be allowed to marry Toby, who loves her and is 
miserable because he runs a chance of losing her." 

" I know." Melicent nodded and looked dis- 
tressed. " Sylvia doesn't want to marry father, 
only her mother insists upon it. But, Miles, it's 
useless to speak to my father ; you know how 
obstinate he is. We can't help things, and I don't 
want to lose you. It's that statue." Melicent ran 



STILL A MYSTERY. 59 

out on to the terrace, and shook her fist at the 
image. 

" DarHng, don't be silly," said Darch, following 
her, and taking her in his arms. " The closing of 
the fist means nothing." 

" It means trouble, which has already come. And 
it will mean danger, which is yet to come," said the 
girl mournfully. Then she buried her face on Miles's 
breast. " I'm afraid ; I'm terribly afraid." 

" It's certainly a mystery," murmured Darch, 
staring at the ominous statue. 

" It's trouble and danger, and perhaps — death," 
said Melicent solemnly. 



CHAPTER V. 

SCANDAL. 

OF course, it followed that the troubles at the 
Hall speedily became public property. Mrs. 
Print's authority to compel the servants to 
hold their tongues was exercised in vain, although 
each and every one of them declared that he or she 
had not said a word. So, as the delinquent could 
not be discovered and it was impossible to discharge 
the whole staff, the housekeeper had to allow 
things to remain as they were. And things were very 
uncomfortable both in the Hall and out of it. Hurst 
lay in bed for a few days, and a sick-room atmosphere 
pervaded the great mansion, while a haunting fear 
was on all beneath its roof with regard to the omen 
of the black image. The sudden troubles which had 
arisen were all put down to the closing of the hand, 
and the famous legend was told over and over again, 
to prove that this was truly the case. It was a most 
uncomfortable time. 

Things were just as uncomfortable in the village, 
for every one talked of what had taken place, 
exaggerating this and amplifying that until the 
story attained to monstrous proportion. It was 
known that the hand of Hecate was closed, and for 
that reason misfortune was coming to the Hursts. 

60 



SCANDAL. 6i 

Report declared that the Squh-e, having been 
engaged to the foreign woman, had thrown her over 
to marry Lady Gibson's daughter. Also it was 
stated that Sylvia had jilted the doctor, because she 
wished to marry Hurst for his money. And finally, 
a rumour spread that because Darch stood by his 
friend, the Squire declined to have him for a son-in- 
law. Grenaccr seethed with gossip, and the sleepy 
villagers woke to vicious life, discussing the mis- 
fortunes of their Squire with ghoulish animation. 
The scandal was local and one after then- own 
hearts, since they daily saw the people concerned 
in the same. A more uncomfortable state of things 
can scarcely be imagined, yet it was impossible to 
trace the source of the gossip. Every one had heard 
the story from some one else, and no one was bold 
enough to declare that he or she was the original 
inventor of the tale. Mr. James, the vicar, a 
well-meaning cleric, actually went so far as to 
preach a sermon against scandal, but — as may be 
guessed — he might as well have saved himself the 
trouble. No one took the slightest notice of his 
diatribe. 

So strong a hold had the legend and its striking 
verification by the closing of Hecate's hand taken 
on the imagination of tlie villagers, that they were 
quite prepared to hear of more trouble befalling the 
Hursts. The Squire was ill and would assured!}^ die ; 
if he recovered he would assuredly lose his money ; 
Mclicent's engagement with Darch would certainly 
be broken ; and Miss Gibson would probably elope 
with Dr. Smith. Or perhaps those who lived at the 
Hall would disappear, as people had disappeared 
in the old days, when Amyas Hurst erected the 
fatal image. Or it might be that the Hall would 
be burnt to the ground with all under its roof. 
There was no end to the prophecies of the villagers, 



62 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

and these being repeated to Ralph, annoyed him 
considerably. He called in Lady Gibson to talk 
matters over, for she had come down with Sylvia 
to stay at the Hall while the Squire was ill. 

" Who should nurse the dear man but his future 
wife," gushed Lady Gibson, and irritated everyone 
by meddling in the sick-room. 

As a matter of fact, she wanted to nurse the 
Squire herself, since Sylvia steadily refused to do 
so. Lady Gibson stormed and pleaded and cajoled 
in vain. Her daughter would not assume the 
responsibility, and went about obstinately silent. 
And what was worse, she had opportunities of 
speaking to Toby Smith, when he came to minister 
to the Squire. Hurst in some queer way liked the 
young fellow, and, looking on his love for Sylvia 
as a mere flirtation, did not object to Toby being his 
medical attendant. And indeed, had he rejected 
Smith's services, he would have had to send to 
Serbery for another doctor. This he did not do, 
much to Lady Gibson's annoyance, so Toby came 
and went and snatched a word or t\^'o with Sylvia 
when possible. Owing to Lady Gibson's vigilance, 
his chances were comparatively rare, but those he 
did get he took full advantage of. Sylvia's mother 
scolded her daughter and pleaded with the Squire, 
so that both might dismiss the young man ; but 
in neither case was she successful. Therefore, when 
Ralph called in Lady Gibson to discuss the village 
scandal, she was too full of her own woes to listen 
attentively. i 

" I really don't understand your brother," said 
Lady Gibson with her usual shrug. " Fancy being in 
love with my daughter and allowing a younger 
man than himself to make love to her. \Vhat does 
it mean ? " 

" It means that Edgar was always as cold-blooded 



SCANDAL. 63 

as a fish where love is concerned," said Ralph in 
his jovial way, and laughed uproariously at the 
expression of his listener. 

" How can you give way to mirth when your 
brother is so ill ? " she remonstrated. " He 
might die." 

"Die ? Not he ! I am fond of Edgar, who has 
always been a good brother to me, you know. But 
he hasn't got much affection for any of us." 

" Melicent " 

" Oh, he likes her, but he does not love her as a 
father should love his only child. He loves no one." 

" Sylvia ? " 

" Not even Sylvia," insisted Ralph positively. 
" He admires her, and thinks if he marries her she 
will give him a son and heir. That is the sole reason 
why he wants to marry. There is no love in the 
matter. Sylvia might flirt with dozens of men, and 
Edgar would take no notice, so long as there wasn't 
a public scandal. I tell you. Lady Gibson, there is 
something lacking in my brother, for I have never 
known him to love anyone or anything." 

" Does he hate people, then ? " asked Lady 
Gibson, rather puzzled, as well she might be when 
being thus made acquainted with the Squire's odd 
character. 

" Oh, no. He doesn't hate and he doesn't love. 
Edgar is purely negative. He is more like a fish than 
a man." 

" Poor Sylvia," murmured her mother reflectively. 

" Poor Sylvia, indeed," said the other earnestly. 
" If you really wish your daughter to be 
happy, Lady Gibson, stop this marriage with 
Edgar." 

" Certainly not, Mr. Ralph. I wish to see Sylvia 
comfortable. In spite of what you say, I'm sure 
the Squire loves her." 



64 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Would he let Smith haunt the house, if he did ? " 
demanded Ralph contemptuously. " Edgar is in- 
capable of love, I tell you. He only wants to marry 
so as to have an heir to the estate. If he didn't 
marry Sylvia he would marry some one else." 

" But Melicent is the heiress." 

" Edgar wants a son to continue the name." 

" But you can continue the name, if you inherit." 

" I can only inherit after Melicent, and moreover, 
if I did I can't continue the name, as I am not 
married. Nor do I intend to marry. Finally, I 
don't desire to inherit the estate with all its 
troubles. I prefer my books. So don't bother any 
more over Edgar's want of appreciating Sylvia as 
a charming young woman. He loves no one, not 
even Melicent. All the feeling he has is a lukewarm 
affection for Mrs. Frint, because she makes him 
comfortable." 

" That woman! " Lady Gibson sniffed irritably 
at her smelling-bottle. " She's a horrid woman, and 
won't let me nurse the Squire." 

" As you have no call to nurse him, and Sylvia, 
as you told me refuses to be his nurse, why shouldn't 
Mrs. Frint attend to Edgar ? And she is by no 
means a horrid woman," ended Ralph, growing red 
and looking as cross as his invariable good- nature 
would allow him to. 

"Oh, you men ; you men," cried Lady Gibson, 
fluttering her handkerchief. " You are always 
taken in by women, young and old. I say that 
Mrs. Frint is a horrid woman and I won't be con- 
tradicted. Look how she dresses ; just like an 
actress in a low melodrama, and speaks in a 
most illiterate way too. Why doesn't the Squire 
pension her off, and send her to live with her 
husband ? " 

Ralph's grey ey»s sparkled and he looked really 



SCANDAL. '^5 

angry. " Mrs. Print's husband is dead," he said, 
breathing heavily. " She married John Frint, my 
brother's baihff, who left his situation here after the 
marriage and took her to London. There he treated 
her very badly, deserted her and went to America. 
She returned here and we nearly all received her 
gladly, as she has lived in this house all her life. 
Her husband died in New York years ago, and since 
then she has been housekeeper. And she will con- 
tinue to be so, always." 

" Not when Sylvia becomes Mrs. Hurst." said 
Lady Gibson calmly. " I'll see that the woman is 
discharged after the marriage. I don't like her." 

" Edgar does, and that is sufficient," retorted 
Ralph curtly, and seeing that it was useless to talk 
of the matter to so obstinate a woman, " if Sylvia 
becomes Mrs. Hurst, or if she does not — and there 
is much virtue in ' If,' as Shakespeare says — Mrs. 
Frint will remain here." 

" I don't think so." 

"I do. There; let us change the subject" and 
Ralph went on hurriedly, so as to prevent further 
talk about the housekeeper. " Do you know what 
they are saying in the village ? " 

" Yes," admitted Lady Gibson, rather sulkily, 
for she preferred to go on talking about Mrs. Frint, 
and resented being switched so pointedly on to 
another subject. " Do you mean all this rubbish 
about the hand of the statue " 

" Not that exactly," interrupted Ralph. " I 
mean that people say Edgar was engaged to Mam'zel 
Clarice and threw her over to marry Sylvia." 

" Oh, I know all about that." Lady Gibson 
shrugged. " Edgar told me how he wrote letters 
and sent toys to the creature when she was a child. 
So ridiculous of her saying he promised to marry her 
on those grounds." 



66 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Ridiculous, but disagreeable. The woman's 
tongue must be silenced." 

" In what way ? " 

" By getting her out of the village. Now, Lady 
Gibson," — Ralph leaned forward and shook a 
massive forefinger in her face — " only a woman 
can deal with a woman, so I wish you to go 
to Mam'zel Clarice and make it plain to her that 
she must leave Grenacer. If she does, people will 
cease to talk." 

" How can I make the creature leave ? " 

" Ah, I leave that to your cleverness," said Ralph 
pointedly. " I am quite sure that for Sylvia's sake 
you wish this scandal to stop, and so will hit upon 
some way of inducing the woman to go." 

Lady Gibson reflected. She wished her daughter 
to become Mrs. Hurst and get herself in this way a 
wealthy son-in-law to supply her with endless 
cheques, so, as it may be guessed, was prepared to 
move heaven and earth to accomplish her ends. 
If the scandal continued the Squire might fight shy of 
marriage, although she saw no reason why he should. 
Still, the doubt was there, and Lady Gibson wished 
to get rid of it by getting rid of Miss Brown. " We 
can only bribe the creature," she said after a pause. 
" If you will authorise me to do so and will give me 
— say fifty pounds — I'll see her and point out that 
it is best for her to go." 

Ralph nodded his approval. " I have thought of 
that," he said, with an air of relief. " But fift}' 
pounds won't be enough, for Mam'zel Clarice is 
rather grasping, as I know from the way in which she 
rooked Edgar." 

" Oh, did she," cried Lady Gibson angrily, " the 
minx. To take money from the Squire which should 
come to Sylvia. I never heard of such a thing. 
In some way I'll turn her out of the village neck 



SCANDAL. 67 

and crop. Has she ever been in trouble with the 
pohce ? " 

" No." Ralph laughed at the vindictive question. 
" She is perfectly respectable, as we learned before 
Edgar got her appointed a governess at the Serbery 
School. No one can say a word against her character. 
But I'll give 3'ou notes for one hundred pounds, and 
you can give her these, if she promises to return to 
Paris and refrain from molesting my brother. I 
talked the matter o\-cr with Edgar, and we have 
arranged this. But you, Lady Gibson, will be the 
best person to settle things with ^lam'zel Clarice." 

" Mam'zel Clarice — !Miss Brown," said Lady 
Gibson pettishly. " It always sounds as if the 
creature had two names." 

"Oh, no ! Her name is Clarice Brown." 

" I don't care. She sounds all wrong," said the 
other confusedly. " I'm sure she is thoroughly 
wicked." 

" And so is Mrs. Print, according to you," said 
Ralph dryly. " \Vliat a bad opinion you have ol 
your fellow-creatures. Lady Gibson." 

" I have a ver^^ good opinion of you," she said, 
rising, and with a smile. " If only you were the 
Squire, I'm sure you would make Syh'ia happ}' and 
would not allow that Smith man to bo about the 
place." 

" I certainly should not," said Ralph in a rather 
violent way, " and if I was the Squire, in possession 
of a good income, I might enter the lists for Sylvia's 
love." 

"Oh !" Lady Gibson gasped, as she never dreamed 
that Ralph admired her daughter, " but this 
Smith " 

" I'd wring his neck," intcrnipted Ralph fiercely ; 
then seeing the astonished expression of her usually 
vapid face, he calmed down to laugh lightly. " But 



68 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

I have blood in my veins, not cold water, like Edgar, 
and when I love, I love." 

" But tell me — really, it's not quite right, you 
know — do you — that is — are you in love with 
Sylvia ? " babbled the other, still startled. 

" Only as an admirer of the beautiful. She is too 
much like a fine marble statue for me." 

" She isn't with that Smith creature," snapped 
Lady Gibson. " However, we m^ust not talk in 
this wa}/. It is disloyal to the Squire. Give me 
the money. Four twenty-five pound notes." She 
counted them. " Thanks. I'll see this woman as 
soon as possible. Good-bye. By the way, you are 
sure the Squire isn't so very, very ill ? " 

" Quite sure. He's only upset over this scandal, 
and as soon as you get Mam'zel Clarice out of the 
place, he will recover. Edgar is a bit of a coward, 
you know, and dreads meeting the woman." 

" As she threatens to murder him, I can scarcely 
be surprised at that," said Lady Gibson uncom- 
fortably. " But, dear me, what a bad character 
you give your brother." 

" No, no ! Don't leave me with that impression. 
I am devoted to Edgar, who is the best and kindest 
of brothers. But he has his faults, as we all have, 
and I have remained here instead of going out into 
the world, so as to look after him. He needs looking 
after," ended Ralph, with emphasis. 

" I'll do that when he marries Sylvia," said 
Lady Gibson, with a sour nod, and took her 
departure with the money to bribe Mam'zel Clarice. 

On the whole, she was not dissatisfied with the 
character given to the Squire by his brother, and 
that evening took her way towards the house 
wherein Miss Brown lodged, with a contented mind. 
Edgar was evidently a coward ; he was too flabby 
to love or hate, and was altogether a negative kind 



I 



i 



SCANDAL. 69 

of man, who could be ruled by a clever woman. 
Sylvia would not take the trouble to rule him, since 
she cared nothing for him, for his position, or for his 
money, owing to her craze for Dr. Smith. As Mrs. 
Hurst she would be more of a beautiful statue than 
ever, and would fill her position in a half-hearted 
way. However, that did not matter, for Lady 
Gibson knew that if such was the case — and the case 
it certainly would be, since she imderstood her 
daughter thoroughly — a clever mother-in-law could 
hold the reins. And once those reins were in her 
hands, Lady Gibson intended to get Melicent married 
and out of the way as speedily as possible ; to get 
rid of Frint by pensioning her off ; and then she 
made up her mind to send Ralph out of the house. 
He was kind and agreeable and popular, but he was 
by no means a man to be driven as the Squire 
could be driven. Lady Gibson was a trifle afraid 
of the 5'ounger Hurst, as she believed that he was 
the power behind the throne, who managed things 
for that figure-head, his brother. In fact, he 
had admitted as much during the last conversa- 
tion by saying that he remained at the Hall to 
look after Edgar. Lady Gibson closed her thin lips 
finnly as she rang the bell of the house wherein 
Mam'zel lodged. It would be easy to get rid of 
Melicent, but difficult to send away Ralph. As 
for Frint, it was not difficult to dispose of that 
creature. 

A wan, elderly lady in black, who had seen better 
days and was always talking about them, admitted 
that Miss Brown was at home, with a faint smile. 
Shortly Lady Gibson was conducted to a stuffy 
drawing-room by the landlady, who drifted before 
her into the room rather than walked. She would 
have explained that Miss Brown was a paying guest, 
and not a lodger, had Lady Gibson been disposed 



I 



70 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

to listen. But since she was not, the landlady 
drifted away to inform Mam'zel Clarice that she 
was wanted. By the light of a dim oil lamp, the 
visitor surveyed the tawdry look of the room with 
disgust and put up her lorgnette with a supercilious 
shrug when JMiss Brown entered. But the super- 
cilious look soon changed, when she saw the young 
lady. 

Mam'zel Clarice might or might not have expected 
a visitor, but she was certain!}^ dressed to receive 
company. In an amazing evening gown of maize- 
coloured silk, cut in a style which showed that it 
came from Paris, Mam'zel Clarice looked astonish- 
ingly young and handsome. Her bare neck and 
shoulders and arms were singularly beautiful, and 
her figure was displaj'ed to the best advantage in 
the perfectly fitting gown. Lady Gibson was 
astonished and indignant, and determined in her 
own mind that the woman was an adventuress 
of the worst description, and not respectable. Else 
how could she have afforded such a dress. 

" You weesh to see me ? " inquired Mam'zel 
Clarice, who, informed by the landlady of her 
visitor's name, was quite prepared to fight. 

" Yes, Miss Brown," said Lady Gibson coldly, 
" I am " 

" Ah, but zere is no need. I do know wat you arc, 
milady. Ze mothar of dat girl, my Edgaar marry — 
if I allow," she ended viciously. 

The challenge was given ; the glove was thrown 
down, but Lady Gibson did not accept the one or 
pick up the other. She had no desire to be drawn 
into a vulgar quarrel, and came straight to the 
point. " I am aware that you claim Mr. Hurst's 

promise of marriage " she began, only to be 

cut short by the voluble Mam'zel. 

" I haf dc promise, and de letters and " 



SCANDAL. 71 

" Merely notes written with toys to a child." 
Lady Gibson indulged in her famous shrug. " A 
clever woman such as you are must be aware that 
such letters would not hold water in a court of law." 

"I do not wan' de laws," said Miss Brown 
sullenly. 

" I quite believe that," said Lady Gibson sharply. 
" You look to me like a woman to whom the law 
in certain aspects would have much to say." 

" You dare to teke my character away ? " 

" Oh, as to that," Lady Gibson waved her 
lorgnette in the air, " we won't speak of that. I 
don't know anything about your character, and I 
don't want to." 

" I am quate raight in all vays. And you mus' 
say " 

" There ! There ! That's enough, my good woman. 
I don't wish to hear your history — your probably 
shady past," she ended sneeringly. 

But for once Lady Gibson went too far. With 
a peunce hke that of a panthcress on its prey, 
Mam'zel flung herself forward, took her by the 
shoulders and shook her thoroughly. Then she 
pressed her back into the chair and brought her 
face close to that of the older woman. " I vill keel 
you, if you do say vun vord against me. I am 
amiable : agreeable : honest. Ah yis ! You dare 
to gif me insult and I scratch dat painted face you 
haf de grin on. Bah ! " 

With a dramatic gesture, she flung away and 
swept to the door. This she opened and pointed to, 
intimating that Lady Gibson should go. And 
indeed the visitor felt very much inclined to go. for 
the assault took her completely by surprise. Being 
a bully, Lady Gibson was a coward, and although she 
expected a tongue-lashing from the woman, in 
which she knew she could give as good as she recei\ed, 



72 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

was by no means ready for a stand-up fight. 
Tottering to her feet, she explained in a tremulous 
voice that Mam'zel Clarice was mistaken : she had 
come out of sheer kindness : she had something 
important to say : she was never so treated before 
in her life and — and 

" You go avay," said Mam'zel Clarice, pointing 
sternly to the door. " You are, wat I do call a 
weecked cat — Ah yis. Go." 

" But let me explain." 

" Speke Zen and say wat you vish." 

" I wish you to go to Paris and have brought you 
one hundred pounds." 

" Ah ! " Mam'zel snarled derisively, " to leef 
behin' zat daughtar of you to marry my Edgar. 
I will not go. No ! " and she folded her arms 
defiantly. 

■ " One hundred pounds." Lady Gibson held 
them out, and tried to recover her ground. " You 
dreadful woman you ! " 

" Vat. You speke so." Mam'zel made another 
pounce, but Lady Gibson shrielced and evaded her 
before she could be touched. 

" No ! No ! Do Hsten. Mr. Ralph wishes you 
to go." 

Mam'zel started, stared fixedly at the trembling 
bully and reflected. " Ah ! he does vish me to 
go avay." 

" Yes ! Yes ! And sends you this hundred 
pounds." 

The woman stretched out her hand, took the 
money, and nodded. " Mistar Ralph, he vish me 
to go away : he sen' me dis money. So." 

" Yes ! He would have come himself only " 

" Oh, I know veil why ' only/ Mistar Ralph. 
Ah yis. So! Igoinaveek?" 

" Really ! " Lady Gibson gasped with reUef, as 



SCANDAL. ;3 

she had not expected so easy a victory, " Then 
I can depart." 

Mam'zel pointed to the door. " Yis. Go away. 
Tell Mistar Ralph, dat I go to Paris, because I tink 
vot I haf no need to tell you. A veek : sayaveek." 

" Yes I'll " 

" And you go." Mam'zel suddenly became 
ferocious, go, or I keel you. Bah ! " 

Lady Gibson fled. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 

LADY GIBSON returned to the Hall in a battered 
condition, more mental than physical, 
though her apparel had been somewhat 
disarranged by Mam'zel's violent assault. She 
informed Ralph that she had accomplished her 
mission at the cost of much pain, and certainly 
would not go near the woman again. " A most 
dreadful creature," wailed Lady Gibson, thoroughty 
upset, when she entered the library to report. 
" Knowing what she was, how could you have the 
heart to send me to see her." 

"Oh, Miss Brown's bark is worse than her bite," 
said Ralph, soothingly. 

" It can't be. She — she — shook me." 

Ralph roared in his jovial, outspoken way. 
" I'm sorry," he said in answer to Lady Gibson's 
indignant look, " but really the idea is so funny." 

" Funny, Mr. Ralph ? " the injured messenger 
shrieked. " I don't see anything at all funny in 
being asked to visit a mad woman. And her 
language ! " Lady Gibson shuddered. " She ought 
to be put into jail." 

" I wish she was there with all my heart," agreed 
Ralph, recovering himself, '' for then I would feel 
much safer in my mind as regards Edgar. I'm 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 



/D 



sorry I laughed, and apologise humbly. Really, I 
never knew that Miss Brown would go to such 
lengths." 

" I have a great mind to bring an action against 
her for assault." 

" No, don't do that. In the first place, you have 
no witnesses, and in the second, it will be as well to 
get her out of the place quietly. We have had 
quite enough scandal as it is." 

" I don't want any more, I'm sure," said Lady 
Gibson, fanning herself with a wisp of lace she 
t ermed her handkerchief. " Perhaps it will be as well 
o pass over her insulting behaviour in dignified 
silence. And after all, Mr. Ralph, I managed to 
induce her to go." 

Ralph appeared to be genuinely surprised. 
" You did. I thought that, having acted as you say 
she did, the woman would not have accepted the 
money." 

" A creature like that always accepts money. 
At first she refused to listen, but afterwards, owing 
to my skilful managenunt, she agreed to go." 

" When ? " 

" In a M'eek from now." 

" Good ! " Ralph did not conceal his satisfaction. 
" Now I feel that Edgar's life is safe. From the way 
she had treated you, Lady Gibson, I am sure you 
understand how dangerous she is." 

" I think she is capable of the vilest crimes," 
said the other positively. 

" So do I," was Ralph's grim retort, " so don't 
say anything about her behaviour to Edgar. It 
will only make him nervous." 

" I shan't say a word to any one but you," pro- 
mised Lady Gibson, rising, " for I shouldn't like 
people to know that I had been shaken. Gracious 
goodness me," cried Lady Gibson, as IMiss Pecksniff 



76 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

had cried before her, " that I should have Hved to be 
shaken. I'm all ner\'es. I'm shattered. I shall go 
to town to recover myself, and see my doctor. I 
might meet that creature again in the village street, 
and then she might shake me again." 

" One never knows what an uncontrolled person 
like Miss Brown will do," said Ralph gravely ; " and 
I think you are wise to go away until she leaves. 
Will you take Sylvia with you ? " 

" No ! Sylvia can stay here with Melicent, and 
can amuse the dear Squire, as he will soon be out of 
bed and downstairs. So the doctor says. And 
speaking of the doctor, Mr, Ralph, I hope you will 
keep an eye on his doings and will not let him talk 
too much with Sylvia." 

" ril do my best. But perhaps it would be better 
that you should take Sylvia with you out of harm's 
way." 

" No ! I don't want her to leave the Squire. 
And I think Sylvia is sensible enough not to break 
her engagement, seeing that she will never get a 
chance of marrying a richer or more agreeable man." 

" Rich, yes. Agreeable — well, I wonder if Sylvia 
thinks Edgar is agreeable ? " 

" I'm sure I don't know what she thinks," said 
Lady Gibson snappishly. " The girl is an enigma, 
and most disobedient and ungrateful to me. How- 
ever, I will say one thing, that she has never broken 
her word, so, however much that Smith man may 
persuade her, I am sure she will remember that she 
is engaged to your dear brother. I admit it's rather 
rash leaving Sylvia here while that horrid doctor is 
about, but I rely on her honour and commonscnse." 

Having delivered herself of this opinion Lady 
Gibson went away, to go to bed and take some sal 
volatile and generally soothe her shattered nerx'es. 
To Sylvia she said little about her visit, save that 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. ;; 

Mam'zel Clarice was going, but intimated that she 
herseK would leave for a week's stay in London the 
very next day. Sylvia expressed neither surprise nor 
regret at her mother's projected departure, but cast 
down her e^^es and maintained her role as a beauti- 
ful statue. Lady Gibson said that such conduct 
v,-as unfilial, but did not succeed in rousing the 
statue to life. 

So the next day Lady Gibson took her departure 
with a lying apology that business called her to 
London. Hurst was sorry, as her everlasting small- 
talk amused his somewhat small mind, and the 
wonder was that, this being the case, he did not 
marry Lady Gibson instead of her statuesque 
daughter. However, as he had proposed to the girl, 
and had been accepted by the girl, it was too late to 
change round, willingly though Lady Gibson would 
have done so. She wanted money, and whether she 
got it, or Sylvia got it, did not matter, as in either 
case, owing to the girl being a puppet in her mother's 
hands, the latter could and would handle the cash. 
Kexer for a moment did this modern Mrs. Skewton 
dream that Sylvia would dare to rebel or alter exist- 
ing arrangements. Nevertheless, she drew the girl 
aside on the eve of her departure and spoke seriously. 

" Don't go flirting with that doctor man," said 
Lady Gibson sharply, " for, weak and silly as the 
Squire is, he may object." 

" Since he trusts Dr. Smith to come here and 
speak with me, I can't see that he will object," said 
Sylvia calmly. 

" Oh, you never know how to take that kind of 
sheep creature such as the Squire is," said her mother 
crossly. " They're all right one moment and all 
wrong the next. All I say is, don't flirt." 

" I never flirt, mother. I love Toby too deeply 
to flirt with him." 



y^ THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Don't talk nonsense, and don't call the man by 
that doggy name. It sounds just as if you were 
speaking of a poodle. Love, indeed, and the man 
hasn't a penny. I never heard of such rubbish. 
However, I put you on your honour not to risk 
breaking the engagement by arousing Mr. Hurst's 
jealousy." 

" I don't think he is capable of feeHng jealous," 
retorted Sylvia bitterly ; " and as to my honour, 
can't we leave that out, seeing you are forcing me to 
marry a man I don't care for, and who does not care 
for me. He only wants me to sit at the head of his 
table, to receive his visitors, and be a mere cypher 
in his house." 

" I won't be a cypher, whatever you may be," 
I romised her mother grimly. " And you know quite 
well that if you don't marry him we are ruined." 

" I have given j'ou my promise to marry him, 
mother." 

" That's right, darling. Kiss me." Sylvia did so, 
coldly. " I know I can trust you to keep that Smith 
man in his place. If you don't, and the Squire gets 
jealous, then there is nothing but the Bankruptcy 
Court. Remember!" 

Lady Gibson said the last word in quite a Charles 
the First way and fluttered out of the house into the 
waiting motor-car. Syhia heaved a sigh of relief 
when it disappeared down the avenue, and was 
thankful to think that she had seen the last of her 
imperious parent for seven days. But that the 
breaking of the engagement meant absolute ruin, 
brought on by Lady Gibson's extravagance, Sylvia 
would never have consented to obey her mother's 
instructions. But, after all, a mother is a mother, 
and little as the girl respected her scheming parent, 
still, enough love was in her heart to make her 
sacrifice herself to sa^'e her from financial disgrace. 



I 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 79 

But it was a very hard position for Sylvia, and she 
disliked having to act the part of Iphigenia in so 
sordid a manner. 

Melicent, who did not Hke the late visitor, was 
delighted to hear of her departure, and frankly told 
Sylvia so. She was very fond of Sylvia, and there- 
fore was walling to accept her as a stepmother, 
although she could not understand how the girl could 
bring herself to marry the Squire, especially when 
a handsome young man like Toby Smith was eager 
to become her husband. Still, Melicent was shrewd 
enough to sec that Sylvia was dominated by her 
mother, and was fighting against the feelings of her 
heart. Knowing this, and knowing also that the 
love of her father for the girl was simply a mild, 
diplomatic weakness to secure a handsome show- 
wife — as Melicent put it — she daringly proposed that 
Sylvia should pay a visit to the doctor. 

" When the cat's away the mice can play," said 
Melicent gaily. " If ^'•ou'll excuse me talking about 
mice in connection with your mother. I mean cats, 
of course. Cats! Cats f " 

" You talk so much and think so little, Melicent, 
that I don't believe you know what you do mean." 

" I mean to pay a visit one evening to Miles and 
take you with me to see Toby," said Melicent coolly. 
" It's dull work being shut up in this big house with 
no one to talk to but Uncle Ralph." 

" But I like your uncle," protested Sylvia. " He 
is agreeable and amusing." 

" Old, all the same, just like father. Miles and 
Toby are much nicer. Youth draws to youth, and 
although I don't mind your being my mother, 
Sylvia " 

" Yes ! Yes ! I know what you're going to say," 
interrupted the other girl hastily ; " but you don't 
know all." 



8o THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" I know that you're being forced into this mar- 
riage, and I don't think that I am disloyal to 
my father in saying that. It would be different 
if father really worshipped you ; but he doesn't. 
You're handsome, and will suit him as the mistress 
of the Hall. But it isn't real, true love, S\dvia 
dear." 

" Real love and I have long since parted, my dear. 
But won't your father be annoyed if I go with you 
to see " — Sylvia hesitated — " Miles ? " 

" Toby, you mean, although father needn't know 
that. He needn't know anything, really," said 
Melicent audaciously. " I'll set Uricle Ralph to 
arrange things in some way. He's a dear old thing, 
and he'll contrive. I know that he knows you really 
love Toby and not father. He would like to see you 
married to Toby, since he knows it really wouldn't 
matter much to father." 

Melicent spoke truer than she guessed, for Ralph 
was by no means in favour of the marriage. Not for 
Sylvia's sake so much as for his own, for he recog- 
nised that the girl was under her mother's thumb, 
and that when she became his brother's wife, Lady 
Gibson would be the real mistress of the Hall. And 
that meant trouble, since Lady Gibson liked her 
own way, and usually managed to get it. Ralph 
was quite comfortable as he was, and did not wish 
the existing state of things changed, especially as, 
if Sylvia refused the match at the eleventh hour, 
Edgar would not break his heart. And Lady Gibson, 
with her desire to dismiss the housekeeper, showed 
very plainly how she intended to upset things. 
Therefore Ralph encouraged Sylvia's meetings with 
the doctor in every possible way, and was quite 
willing to fall in with Melicent 's plan of an evening 
visit to the young men. Ralph knew that Lady 
Gibson had forced Sylvia on the Squire, and had 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 8i 

cajoled him into a proposal, so he had no compunc- 
tion in breaking off the marriage if he was able. 
And in this, as in other things, he was acting as the 
power behind the throne, so as to keep his brother 
in peace and comfort. Ralph was as strong as his 
brother was weak, and for years had been the real 
ruler of the house. He did not intend to resign his 
sceptre to Lady Gibson, which he would certainly 
be forced to do if she managed to make her too- 
obedient daughter Mrs. Edgar Hurst. For this 
reason amongst others he agreed to arrange the 
stolen visit. 

" For it is stolen, Melicent," he protested, " on 
Sylvia's part, that is. For although your father 
doesn't mind Smith seeing her here, he certainly 
would object to this evening visit." 

" I wouldn't suggest it if I thought that father 
really adored Sylvia," said Melicent thoughtfully. 
" But he doesn't, and I'd be glad if Toby would 
marry Sylvia and put an end to this ridiculous 
engagement." 

" Think of your father's feehngs," rebuked Ralph 
seriously. 

"He hasn't got any in that way," insisted the 
girl positively. " If T thought so I'd be the last to 
encourage Toby Smith. And I don't believe that 
father wished to marry again in the least. That 
horrid Lady Gibson made him propose. There would 
be a row if she heard of our visit." 

" She certainly will hear of it should your father 
get to know," said Ralph, with a shrug of his huge 
shoulders. " He tells her everything, and seems to 
think more of her than of Sylvia." 

" Then why doesn't he marry her ? It would be 
more suitable." 

" Would you like Lady Gibson as a stepmother ? " 

" No," Melicent frowned and pouted. " I don't 



82 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

like her. But the vdsit. Can we paj- it in a way 
that father won't get to hear of it ? " 

" Oh, yes. See here." Ralph produced a slender 
key and gave it to his niece, " That opens the door 
of the postern — you know, Melicent, the door which 
is at the side of the house." 

" Yes, I know, I know," said the girl impatiently, 
slipping the key into her pocket. " Of course I 
know the house from cellar to attic. When I open 
this door we go along the passage leading to the 
breakfast-room." 

" Exactly, and thence you can get into the hall 
and ascend the stairs. But do so quietly, so as not 
to waken Mrs. Print or your father. By going and 
coming in this way no one will see you and Syh-ia, 
so your father won't know." 

" Can't you sit up and let us in, Uncle Ralph ? We 
won't be late." 

" I'm going to sit with your father and, as you 
know, I am sleeping in the adjoining bedroom, since 
he is nervous owing to that woman's conduct. Also 
I shall go to bed early to pacify your father. When 
he knov\'s that I am in bed and the house is locked 
up he will go to sleep quietly." 

" I see !" MeHcent laughed ; then added anxiously, 
" then 'v^'hy should he be afraid if the house isn't 
locked up ? There are no burglars in Grenacer." 

" Your father fears lest Mam'zel Clarice should 
get into the house and worry him," said Ralph seri- 
ously, " and every night he has been careful to ask 
if evcrs^thing is bolted and barred. I don't know if 
I should give you the postern key," said Ralph, 
rubbing his nose in a vexed way, " as I shall have 
to tell a lie if your father asks me if the house is 
locked up." 

" I've got the key, and I intend to keep and use 
the kev," said Melicent in a determined way ; " and 



THE UXEXPECTED HAPPENS. S3 

as the door will be locked when we go and locked 
when we return I don't see that you will be telling 
any lie." 

" Well ! Well ! Well ! Go and enjoy your- 
selves. But don't be late." 

" We'll be back at ten o'clock." 

" Nine. I insist upon nine, for by then it will 
still be light." 

" Veiy well then, Uncle Ralph. We'll return at 
nine. But it won't be so very light then, and it 
doesn't matter if it isn't light, as Miles and Toby 
will see us home. You're a darling, Uncle Ralph," 
and standing on tip-toes Melicent kissed him three 
times. 

Three nights later, two girls slipped out by the 
postern door, which was on the west side of the 
house, set in an angle, and overshadowed by a large 
chestnut -tree. No one sav/ them, as the door was 
rarely used, so they danced down the avenue in the 
luminous twilight about seven o'clock. Sylvia felt 
particularly bright and uplifted, owing to the absence 
of her domestic tyrant and to the fact that she was 
going to see Toby. Hand in hand she and Melicent 
ran onward, opened the big gates, and slipped along 
in the shadow of the park wall to the house of the 
two bachelors. It certainly was not quite the thing 
for two young ladies to be out at such an hour paying 
such a visit, and the local Mrs. Gmndy would have 
been shocked had she seen them. However, they 
were fortunate not to meet the lady in the person of 
any gossiping villager, and soon arri\'cd at the gate 
of Darch's house, which opened on to the high road, 
no great distance from the end of the park wall. 
Melicent, holding Sylvia's hand, stole through the 
garden, which was the pride of Milcs's heart, and 
looked in at the window. The blinds were up, as it 
was sLill light, and Darch was playing after-dinner 



84 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

chess wiiii Ills Iriend. Tliey were so absorbed in the 
game that they did not notice the girls at the v/indow. 

" Check," cried Mehcent, and tapped on the pane. 

Miles arose with an exclamation of surprise as he 
recognised her voice, and opened the window^ which 
happened to be a French one. Meliccnt walked into 
the room, follo^ved by Sylvia, and then it was the 
doctor who exclaimed. He rose so hastily as to 
upset the chessboard, and went straight towards 
the girl with the evident intention of taking her in 
his arms. She looked at him warningly, shook her 
head, and stepped back. 

" No ! No ! We have only come to pay you a 
\'isit because — because " 

Meliccnt, seeing that she hesitated, took the words 
out of her mouth. " Because Lady Gibson is away. 
She went to London to-day and will not return for a 
week. You might have learned that, doctor, had 
you come to see father to-day." 

" I see the Squire as little as possible," said Smith 
quickly, and with a frown. " He really doesn't need 
much medical attention, and he doesn't care much 
about my coming to the Hall." 

There was an awkward silence, for the presence of 
the Squire's daughter prevented plainer speaking. 
Miles was the first to open his mouth. 

" Isn't it rather unconventional for you two 3'oung 
ladies to visit two bachelors ? " he asked gaily. 
" What will the Squire and Lady Gibson say ? " 

" They won't know anything about it," retorted 
Meliccnt lightly. " We slipped out and we shall slij) 
in, with the assistance of Uncle Ralph, who really 
is a darhng," and she explained about the key of the 
friendly postern door. 

Toby laughed, but looked serious. " All the same 
I am not sure that you should have come," he said, 
with a sigh. 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 85 

" Oh, bother ! " Mehcent shrugged her shoulders. 
" It is so dull at the Hall, and S3dvia and I wish to 
be amused. Amuse us." 

" Well, as you have kicked over the social traces 
so far as to be here, we may as well do our best," 
said Darch. " Melicent, you are a grown-up young 
lady and not a schoolgirl, remember." 

For answer she ran to the piano and rattled off 
a ragtime song, while Toby looked at Syh-ia and 
wondered if he dare speak plainly to her regarding 
the position of things. ]\Iiles saw the look, and being 
quite on his friend's side so far as the forced marriage 
with the Squire was concerned, suddenty resolved 
to give them a chance of speaking. After all Sylvia, 
who was very unhappy, as he knc\\', dcsor\-ed some 
reward for having dared to pay this \-isit in the direct 
face of her mother's intentions. 

" jMeliccnt, come into the garden. I have a new 
flower to show you," he said, and touched the girl 
on the shoulder. 

" I believe you lo\e your garden and flowers more 
than you lo\e me," she replied, jumping up to accept 
the invitation. 

" You arc a flower yourself, dearest," said Darch 
in a caressing tone, and putting his arm round her 
slender waist he led her through the French windon- 
and into the garden. Shortly they were deeply 
engaged in horticultural topics, and took no notice 
of the two left behind. 

Smith thought that Sylvia would follow the Io\'ers 
into the garden so as to avoid an awkward conversa- 
tion with him. But Sylvia had come purposely to 
have the conversation in question, so that he might 
thoroughly understand why she obeyed her mother. 
This she explained to Toby, A\'ho listened, leaning 
'against the mantelpiece, with downcast eyes. 

" So you see," said Syh-ia, in a low, rapid voice 



86 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

and after a somewhat lengthy explanation, " I 
must marry Mr. Hurst or see my mother m the 
Bankruptcy Court." 

" Yes, I sec," the doctor sighed heavily, opening 
and shutting his hand. " I have known all along 
that you don't marr}^" this man of your free will. 
I'm sure you don't love him, Sylvia." 

" No," she replied listlessly. " I certainly don't. 
I neither love him nor hate him, for he is one of those 
men who don't awaken any feeling either M'ay. I 
feel ashamed to marry such a man, seeing that he 
cares nothing for me — that is, in the way a man 
should care for his future wife." 

" If he doesn't care, why does he want to marry 
you ? " 

" ]\Iy mother managed to get him to propose, and 
I accepted, as she told me that my refusal meant 
absolute ruin. But it's horrible." Sylvia pressed 
her hands together vehemently. ' ' Edgar only wants 
me to bo the mistress of the Hall and look after 
things. He's not a man. If he were, he would not 
allow you to come to the Hall, even as his doctor, 
when he knows that I love you dearly." 

" And you do, Sylvia," he made a step forward. 

" Don't ; stay where you are, Toby. What's the 
use of making things harder for me. 01 course I 
love you. Doesn't my being here show that I love 
you. I M'ould marry you to-morrow, poor as you 
arc — but — my mother." 

Her ^•oice died away in a cry of pain, and Smith 
clenched his teeth on his lower lip to prevent himself 
from speaking wildly. When he did open his mouth 
it was to speak calmly enough, although the effort 
was great. " Do you owe so much to your mother, 
Sylvia ? " 

" I owe very little." She lifted her heavy 
eyes. " All my mother cares about is for me to 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 87 

marry money. For my happiness she cares 
nothing." 

" Then why should you sacrifice yourseh ? " he 
said eagerly. 

" She is my mother, after all. Toby," she rose 
suddenly and spoke in louder tones, " you don't 
know how precarious is our position. My mother 
has sold everything ; mortgaged everything. My 
father left a good sum of money and a fair amount 
of property, but my mother has wasted ever^'thing, 
and now we have only a few hundreds left, just 
enough to keep things going until I marry the Squire. 
If I married you my mother would have to go to 
the workhouse. She has tired out her friends. No 
one will do anything for her. I hate seUing myself, 
but oh, my dear, what can I do ? If you were only 
rich and could help my mother." 

" I wish I were, but I am not. Sylvia, I would 
give my life to call you wife and break this wicked 
engagement. But I am as poor as a church-mouse. 
Still, if you marry me, we could go to the Colonies, 
and I'm sure I could soon make money there." 

" But my mother ? " 

"Ah ! that's the stumbling block." 

The two poor things looked piteously at one 
another, but felt themsehes too ringed round by 
circumstances to make any change for the better. 
And at the moment the voices of Miles and Mclicent 
were heard nearer, so they were evidently returning. 
The unhappy lovers could not speak confidenlially 
any longer, and indeed there was nothing left to say. 
Smith felt inclined to draw Sylvia to his breast and 
urge her to dare the worst ; but he could not bring 
himself to do so, seeing how impossible was the 
realisation of his hopes. He and Sylvia looked 
at one another longingly ; then, when the others 
returned through the French window, masked their 



88 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

real feelings in unmeaning smiles. A fellow-feeling 
made Miles and Melicent understand what had taken 
place. But they could do nothing, and so also 
masked their real sentiments. The quartette plaj'ed 
at being happy. They chatted and sang, conversed 
about Shakespeare and the musical glasses, and 
altogether alcted their respective parts as though 
they were on the stage. Eveiy one was unhappy : 
Sylvia and Toby because of circumstances ; Miles 
and I\Ielicent out of sheer sympathy. 

At last the slow hours of make-believe came to an 
end, and shortly before nine o'clock the young men 
escorted their guests home. It was still tolerably 
light, so, to avoid curious glances, they walked along 
the riverside. Here the party, following the curve 
of the stream wound deviously until it passed through 
a thick wood, \vhich grew round the walls of the 
Sanctuary and concealed the same from the road- 
way. On the land side the trees were dense and 
dark ; on the river side few and scattered. Between 
their trunks could be seen the gleam of the river 
and the flat corn-lands beyond. Melicent com- 
mented on the grove, which hid the walls of the 
Sanctuary. 

" It is because of this wood that the Hall is called 
Thorswud," she said carelessly. " Uncle Ralph says 
that the god Thor was worshipped here once." 

" The god of Force," commented Toby bitterly. 
" He is still Vv'orshipped here, I think, Melicent," 
and he looked at Sylvia, who was being forced into 
a disagreeable marriage by her scheming mother. 

After passing through the wood the party emerged 
on to the high road, which ran along beside the park 
wall. They kept in the shadow of this to avoid any 
passers-by ; but there was no need to do so, as they 
found when they slipped into the gates of Thors^vud 
I or they met no one. As it was iust on nine o'clock 



THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS. 89 

they ran hastily up the avenue, turned the corner 
of the house, and came to the postern set in the angle 
of the building. Owing to the shadow of the chest- 
nut-tree, it was so dark here that Melicent could not 
find the keyhole. Fortunately, Miles had brought 
his electric torch and was able to illuminate the 
precise place where the key should be slipped in. 
Mehcent thrust it in and turned it to open the door. 
But before she could push back the door a dark figure 
dropped from the chestnut branches on to her and 
she fell to the ground with a cry. Taken by surprise 
the two men halted for a moment and did nothing, 
while Syh'ia shrieked. Then they ran forward, only 
to find that it was too late. The dark figure arose 
from the ground, fumbled for a moment at the door, 
and then sprang away. It was the figure of a man, 
and he escaped as if by a miracle. Melicent rose 
and clutched at the door. 

" Oh," she cried in horror, " stop him ! stop liim ! 
He's taken the key." 



CHAPTER VII. 

AN EXPLANATION. 

MELICENT awoke with a confused sense of 
what had taken place on the previous night. 
After turning over three times, rubbing her 
eyes, stretching and yawning, her brain began to 
work, and she lay quiet, turning over matters in her 
mind. Her shoulders were still sore from the weight 
of the person who had dropped so unexpectedly 
upon them from the tree. That person had been no 
light v/eight, and the concussion, together with the 
subsequent fall, had shaken the girl a great deal. 
But who the person was, and why he should ha\'o 
been hiding in the chestnut-tree to drop upon her, 
and then run off with the key, she could not imagine. 
All she did know was that the assault had taken 
place, and that the key of the postern had been 
stolen. The reason wh}- such things should happen 
\vas as yet a mystery. 

And the worst of it was that the Squire had come 
to know all about the matter of the secret visit to 
Dr. Smith's house. Almost as soon as the young 
men had set off in pursuit of the mysterious thief, 
and while she and Sylvia were yet clinging together 
in sheer fright. Uncle Ralph had appeared at the 
door. Luckily she had opened the door before the 



AN EXPLANATION. 91 

theft of the key, else her uncie hmisch cuuld not 
have opened the door, for there was only one key — 
the key he had lent her. It was a surprise to see 
Uncle Ralph appear so unexpectedly, as both she and 
Sylvia believed that he was sound asleep in the room 
next to that of the Squire. Uncle Ralph's hasty 
explanation that he had lain a^'ake \\'aiting for their 
return and had heard the cry for help, fell on deaf 
ears, for Mehcent remembered that both she and 
her friend had been too confused to pay much atten- 
tion. When they went upstairs the Squire had come 
from his bedroom to learn what the noise was about, 
and Uncle Ralph had been forced to explain. Then 
she and Syh'ia retired to bed in tears and in disgrace. 
It had been a most unpleasant end to a none-too- 
pleasant evening. As to what became of Miles and 
the doctor, Melicent could not think. But she would 
hear all about it soon, and rose reluctantly, with 
the expectation of ha\-ing a disagreeable morning. 
For if Uncle Ralph was not angry her father 
assuredly \\'as. 

After her bath and the brushing of her hair, and 
the agreeable work of dressing herself in a delightful 
summer frock, Melicent went off to see how Sylvia 
was feeling. She found her friend up and dressed 
also; but, contrary to Miss Hurst's expectations, she 
did not look in the least downcast. As a matter of 
fact, her usually grave face was wreathed in smiles. 
Melicent stopped short at the door in sheer amaze- 
ment at the sight. 

" Aren't you afraid, Sylvia ? " she asked, hi 
a tone of awe. " There's sure to be a row, you 
know." 

" My dear, I liave been so often in trouble with 
my mother that this row does not worry me in the 
least. Moreover," Sylvia's face brightened still 
more, " perhaps your father will refuse to marry me 



tj2 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

because of our escapade, and if he does mother can't 
blame me." 

" She will though," said Melicent positively. She 
knew the lady's temper. 

" Well, I don't care," said Sylvia recklessly. " I 
may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb ; 
and, after all, I really doji't want to marry your 
father." 

" I often wonder why you accepted him," said 
Melicent, as they went downstairs, " for you never 
told me the reason." 

" I thought my mother might Imxc given you 
a hint," remarked Miss Gibson dryly. " Your father 
is rich ; my mother is poor, and I was forced to be 
the sacrifice." 

" Oh," Melicent was shocked at this crude way 
of putting things ; " and 1 thought you loved 
Toby." 

" So I do. j\Iy going to see him last night and 
risking trouble is a proof how much I love him. I 
never thought that your father would find out 
about it ; but as he has done so I'm ready for the 
worst." 

" Father was veiy angry last night." 

" I don't wonder, poor man, being awakened by 
your shrieks and mine," said Sylvia flippantly. 

" I couldn't help shrieking when that horrid man 
dropped on me." 

" Of course you couldn't, and I shrieked to keep 
you company. AnyhoA\', our cries awoke your 
father and — well, you know what took place. But," 
added Miss Gibson slowly, " if your father says any- 
thing more to me this morning I shall soon show 
him I'm not a schoolgirl to be trampled upon." 

"I'm not either," declared Mehcent valiantly. 
" After all, we didn't do any harm, and Uncle Ralph 
will stand by us." 



AN EXPLANATION. 93 

in this reckless frame of mind the culprits marched 
into the dining-room, where Ralph was already at 
breakfast. His eyes twinkled when he saw their 
impenitent faces, but he refused to say much 
about the matter until they had eaten a good 
breakfast . AH he did tell them was that the young 
men had not succeeded in catching the thief, and 
had returned to make a brief explanation and be 
dismissed. 

" Did father see them ? " asked IMeliccnt anxiously. 

" No ; he was so angiy that I thought it best to 
see them and dismiss them myself. And, strange 
to say, the excitement has done your father good. 
He is coming downstairs at midday. Of course, as 
I said, your father does not approve of your visit 
to those young men, and I got a severe wigging for 
aiding and abetting you." 

" I don't think much of father's wiggings. I never 
did," said Melicent, with a shrug, " and I hope he's 
got over his temper." 

" I hope he has," said Sylvia emphatically. " I'm 
not going to marry a man with a temper." 

" Oh, he won't say much to you. jMelicent will 
act as your whipping girl." 

" I shan't allow that," said ]\Iiss Gibson, drawing 
herself up and looking vciy handsome. " If any one 
is to be blamed I am the person." 

" Well, well, well," said Ralph, in a comforting 
tone, " perhaps no one will be blamed. I think my 
brother has exhausted his rage." 

" I don't care if he has or has not," said Sylvia 
sharply. " I'm not married to him yet, you know, 
Mr. Ralph." 

The younger Hurst looked at her curiously, 
admiring the colour in her face and the temper she 
showed. Hitherto he had always seen Sylvia meekly 
bending to her mother's will, too haughty and too 



94 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

indifferent to display her feelings. Now he beheld 
her in a new light, and recognised that she had a fine 
strong spirit of her own. Opposed as he was to 
the marriage, Ralph thought what a lucky fellow 
his brother was to get such a handsome girl for 
a wife. Sylvia met his eyes, resented the look 
of admiration in them, and resumed her breakfast 
with a look of anger on her usually expressionless 
face. " * 

" Who stole the key, Uncle Ralph, and ,'why 
was it stolen ? " asked Mehcent, who had now 
finished. i-**^;l 

" I'll teh you bolh that in the hbrary after break- 
fast. But you must promise to say nothing about 
the matter to your father." 

" But he knows " 

" He knows that you were out and that some one 
snatched the key. But he does not know who the 
some one is." 

" Do you ? " Both girls asked the question 
simultaneously. 

Ralph nodded in a provoking manner and strolled 
out of the room. So anxious were the two ladies 
to learn what he knew, that they were only another 
five minutes over their meal — that is, Sylvia was, 
as Melicent had finished \vhen she asked the question 
concerning the key. 

The library was a large, old-fashioned apartment, 
the walls of which apparently consisted of books, 
for there was no sign of the same, so hidden they 
were by the many volumes. There were three 
narrow windows looking out into the park and draped 
with faded red curtains ; a fireplace of ruddy tiles 
with a mantelpiece of black oak, and one wide door 
leading out of the hall. The carpet was crimson, 
and in the middle of the vast apartment stood a 
large table covered with red cloth and piled with 



AN EXPLANATION. 95 

papers. The rest of the furniture consisted of com- 
fortable leather arm-ciiairs to the number of five or 
six. Into one of these Melicent dropped, while Sylvia 
placed herself in another. As for Ralph, he remained 
seated at the table, ^vhere he had been when they 
entered. 

" Now give us the explanation. Uncle Ralph," 
said his niece, who was consumed with a curiosity 
manifestly shared by Miss Gibson. 

Ralph drew his hand out of his pocket, and with 
it a slender key. " This is the explanation," he 
said, with a bland smile. 

" The key. Did you get it ? How did you get 
it ? Who stole it ? Why was it stolen ? Who got 
it back again ? Miles ? Toby ? " 

The questions from the two poured so thickly and 
quickly that Ralph raised his hands to his ears. 

" Wait ! Wait ! and hold your tongues. You are 
nearest to the fireplace, Melicent. Rmg the bell and 
see who comes in." 

Wondering at this order the girl did so, and looked 
in the direction of the door. It opened suddenly 
and Jum shot in with his usual rapidity. He 
grinned when he saw the young ladies, and tlicn 
stood stiff as a ramrod looking at Ralph, 'ihat 
gentleman had sat do\\-n again and now waved his 
hand. 

" Tell Miss Hurst and Miss Gibson what you told 
me, Jum, and explain how you were in a position 
to get the information. Use your best English and 
mind you speak slowly." 

" Oh, go on. Jum, go on," cried Melicent 
impatiently. " How did you " 

" Let the boy speak, Melicent," internipted her 
uncle, and the boy did speak. 

" Mr. Ralph Ir'd n^.e to watch Mam'zel Clarice 
after she made ;^u assault on Master," said Jum, 



96 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

choosing liis words carefully. " He thought she 
might try it on again. So, ever since, I've been 
looking after her day and night, so as to see what she 
was doing." 

" And what was she doing ? " asked Sylvia, 
curiously. 

" Watching this house, miss.'"' 

" What for ? " 

" I can't tell you that, miss ; but she has always 
been prowhng about the place, mostly when the 
twilight came. After your lady-mother came to see 
her, miss, she came out, and was walking round and 
round." 

" Trying to get in ? " asked Melicent suddenly. 

Jum bowed gravely. " Yes, miss, I think so. 
But every time she tried she never did, though she 
looked at all the windows and doors. And last 
night, miss, Mr. Ralph told me to follow you and 
Miss Gibson, so that Mam'zel should not harm 
you. That " 

" Oh, how ridiculous," interrupted Sylvia. " Why 
should she wish to harm us ? " 

" My dear Miss Gibson," said Ralph seriously, 
" one is never safe with a M'oman of that kind, and 
as she wishes to marry my brother she is naturally 
your enemy." 

Sylvia shivered. " I never thought of that. You 
are right. Go on, Jum." 

" Well, I followed, miss," continued Jum, " and 
soon saw that Mam'zel was follov/ing also." 

" But how did she know that we were going to 
Dr. Smith's ? " questioned Melicent excitedly. 

" She was always watching, miss, and somehow 
got to know." ' 

" Melicent," said her uncle at this moment, " do 
you remember how Mam'zel became calm on the 
day I carried her out, when I whispered in her ear ? " 



AN EXPLANx\TION. 97 

" Yes, uncle ; I M'ondered what the spell was." 

" This, When Mam'zel came to Grenacer I made 
myself acquainted with her life in Paris. I learned 
that she had been in the secret service of the pohce 
there, and whispered that I would tell your father 
her profession if she did not go quietly. You saw 
how she obeyed, and knowing this you can easily 
guess that such a clever woman would easily be able 
to learn about your doings and know how to follow 
you. Go on, Jum. i\Ielicent, you can express your 
surprise later." 

Thus warned Melicent held her peace, and 
Jum, feeling the importance of his position, con- 
tinued gravely : " Mam'zel followed you and 
Miss Gibson, miss. I followed her, and you spoke 
so loud, miss, that I heard what you were saying. 
And so," added the boy significantly, " did Mam'zel 
Clarice." 

" What did I say, Jum ?" Melicent look startled, 
for although she knew that whatever she said would 
be innocent enough it was not a pleasant thought 
that her conversation had been overheard by so 
dangerous a woman as Miss Brown. 

" You said how lucky it was that you had the key 
of the postern door, and a lot else, miss. But 
Mam'zel, as I guessed, only paid attention to 
that." 

" But why should she ? " 

" Can't you sec, Melicent ? " said Ralph, rather 
impatiently. " Didn't Jum tell you that she was 
prowling about the house to get another chance of 
speaking to your father and could find no entrance. 
Of course when your incautious conversation gave 
her information about the key she made up her mind 
to get it." 

" Oil," cried Sylvia, suddenly enlightened, " then 
it was " 



98 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Wait ! Wait ! One thing at a time. Continue, 
Jum." 

As gravely as ever the boy went on speaking : 

" Mam'zel followed the young ladies to the 
doctor's house, and then went home to her own. I 
followed her, as Mr. Ralph had told me to watch her 
closely. After a long time, while I hid in the garden, 
she came out dressed as a boy." 

" Oh ! " said the girls simultaneously. Then 
Melicent said, breathlessly indignant : " How dare 
she ? " and her uncle answered : 

" A wom.an who has been in the Paris secret police 
will dare a great deal to gain her ends, and is well 
furnished with cunning experience of how to gain 
them. She came out in a kind of close-fitting 
bicycle suit, I fancy." 

" She did, sir," said Jum solemnly. " And then 
she made for the park, slipped in through the big 
gate and ran up the avenue. I followed, just in 
time to see her climb into that chestnut-tree near 
the postern." 

"I see ; I see," cried Melicent excitedly. " She 
waited there until we returned home, and then 
dropped on my shoulders " — she rubbed one rue- 
fully — " so as to snatch the key." 

" Exactly," said her uncle calmly. 

" And remember, Mehcent, Miles flashed his torch 
on to the keyhole so that you could slip in the 
key. The woman saM^ plainly where it was," said 
Sylvia. 

Mehcent nodded. " She stole it cleverly enough. 
What I want to know is how Uncle Ralph got it 
back." 

" Hearken to Jum," advised Ralph grimly. 

" I was round the corner," said the page modestly, 
" and heard you cry out, Miss Melicent. When 
Mam'zel got the key — and I guessed she was after 



AN EXPLANATION. 99 

that — she made off. I followed, and managed to 
catch up with her. Somehow I tripped her up, and 
said I'd hold her until the doctor and Mr. Darch 
came up unless she gave me the key. I suppose 
she was afraid of being caught, for she threw it at 
me. While I was picking it up she ran away as 
luird as she could. I found the key and slipped in 
amongst the trees beside the avenue. When the 
doctor and Mr. Darch passed me I came back to the 
postern and found Mr. Ralph waiting. I gave him 

the key and " 

" Why didn't you wait and tell Mr. Darch ? " 
hiterrupted IMelicent impatiently. 

" I think Jum was wise not to do so. Had lie 
told ]\[iles that he had recovered the key and knew 
the name of the thief Miles, in his excitement, might 
have told your father." 

" But I want Miles to know the truth now, 
uncle." 

" He can, for now he is less excited, and I 
can explain to him that I don't wish my brother 
to learn the truth. If he did he would have no 
rest." 

" But eveiything is safe now, since you ha\'c 
the key back," said Syhia ; " the woman can't 
get in." 

" True enough ; but until she goes she will ti-y to 
get in, and that fact alone is sufficient to thro-\v my 
brother into a nervous fe\-er. If you remember, all 
I explained last night to my brother, to account for 
the noise, was that you and Melicent had been 
frightened by a tramp when returning from your 
visit to the doctor. Keep to that stoiy, Miss Gibson, 
and never let on that Mam'zel Clarice has anything 
to do with the matter. Jum, you can go. I am 
very ]jleased with you, my lad." 

" And so are we," said Syh-ia and Melicent, 



loo THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Jum retired, blushing with pleasure all o^'er hh 
freckled face, and indeed he deser\^ed their praise, 
for few boys of his tender age would have acted so 
cleverly and with such circumspection. He opened 
the door to depart, and as he did so the Squire 
stepped into the library. He looked much better, 
but still seemed listless and bored. With a nod to 
his brother and a frown at his daughter he spoke 
coldly to Sylvia. 

" Will you come to my study ? " he asked, with 
chill politeness. " I wish to speak to you." 

" Father, it's all my fault." Melicent jumped up 
and ran forward. 

The Squire put her aside without a word. " I 
ask if Sylvia will come to my study ? " he said again, 
and still coldly. 

" Certainly ! " said Miss Gibson, throwing back 
her head in a haughty manner and leaving the room 
calmly. She knew that she was in for a bad quarter 
of an hour, but knew also that she was quite able to 
hold her own with this dapper manikin who ^vas to 
be her future husband — that is, if the interview 
passed off successfully, which, so far as she could 
see, was unlikety. 

When in the study, Mr. Hurst placed a chair for 
Sylvia and sat down at liis desk in a magisterial 
manner. '; The girl faced him quietly, again resuming 
her mask of statuesque repose and uninviting 
silence. This demeanour disconcerted the Squire, 
who had hoped for tears and apologies. But 
Lady Gibson was not there to coerce her daughter, 
and lacking so capable an ally Hurst had to face the 
situation — and one of his own creation — alone. He 
did so with manifest reluctance, since the blood ran 
too thinly in his veins to stimulate his courage to 
real manly indignation. 

" I am very much annoyed, Sylvia," he said, after 



AN EXPLANATION. loi 

a pause, " to hear from my brother that you visited 
Dr. Smith's house last night." 

" You never told me that you objected to my 
speaking to him," she said coldly. 

" Not here. But in his house — that is quite 
a different thing." 

" How so, Mr. Hurst ? " 

" I think you might call me Edgar seeing that you 
are engaged to me." 

" How so, Edgar ? " asked Sylvia obediently, for 
the point was not worth arguing, and it was useless 
to irritate the weak little man. 

" Can you ask ? Your mother told mc that you 
were flirting with that young doctor. As I am not 
of a jealous disposition I made no sign of displeasure, 
and even allo\\-ed young Smith to attend me when 
I was ill, knowing that you \\-ould meet him. You 
must admit that I am no tyrant." 

"Oh, certainly, I admit that." 

" But to go to his house in the e\-ening was 
improper." 

" I can't sec it. I might shelter myself behind 
]\Ielicent and say that I accompanied her to see 
Miles, but I shan't do that. I went because I wished 
to go, and because it was necessary to see Dr. 
Smith." 

" Why was it necessaiy ? " asked the Squire, in 
his fretful fashion. 

" Because I love him, and had to explain that I 
could not marry him, since my mother wishes me 
to many you. Owing to my mother's presence 
here I had no chance of a private com-ersation in this 
house. So when she went and Dr. Smith did not 
come I thought it best to pay the visit you speak 
of. But for the trouble last night you would not 
have known anything about the matter and, as you 
know, ' Where ignorance is bHss.' " 



loj THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" All, the tramp ! Well, it serves you and 
Melicent right in being frightened by that tramp, 
whosoever he is. You acted wrongly." 

" I acted rightly." Sylvia spoke haughtily. 

" You are engaged to me." 

" By my mother's desire," she reminded him 
coolly. 

" Not by your own ? " 

Syh'ia stood up indignantly. " I don't see why 
you need ask that question, Mr. Hurst. You know 
well enough that I do not love you and that I love 
Toby — I mean Dr. Smith. You want me as your 
wife and, for my mother's sake, since she is poor, I 
have sold myself." 

" You put matters plainly," snapped the Squire, 
biting liis lips. 

" It is necessaiy to speak plainly," was the 
haughty reply. " And now that I have done so, 
will you cancel our engagement and give me back 
my word ? " 

" What about your mother ? " asked Hurst, 
fencing. " You know what this marriage means to 
her. I understand her position thorough^, and I 
am willing to help her if you marry me." 

" Do you call yourself a man to accept me as your 
wife on those terms ? " demanded Sylvia scornfully. 

" It suits m}/ purpose to have you as my wife," 
said Hurst obstinately, and unmo^^ed by her scorn ; 
" and my wife you shall be. I don't demand ^ove 
from you, but I do demand respect." 

" Respect ? " 

" Yes ; you must stop speaking to this young 
man, and you must promise me never to pay him 
another visit." 

" I promise," said Sylvia coldly. " I have told 
him all I had to tell him. He understands the 
situation as well as vou do." 



AN EXPLANATION. 103 

."Very- good. The Squire rose, and appeared to 
be relieved. " Then things can remain as they are." 

" For my mother's sake, I suppose they must. 
But one change in the existing state of things 
I shall make." 

" And that is ? " 

" I shall go up to town to my mother to-day." 

" Oh, go by all means," retorted the Squire ;'"but 
remember you return as my wife." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE CURSE OF HECATE. 

SYLVIA lost no time in departing. She had 
failed to mo\'e the Squire in any ^\'ay, since 
he was evidently more determined than ever 
to make her his unloved wife. She felt, however, 
that she had reached the bounds of her endurance 
and could not stay under the same roof with him ; 
at all events, for the time being. Certainly, when 
she became Mrs. Hurst, she would be obhged to live 
always under the same roof, but Sylvia hoped that 
some miracle would occur to prevent the wedding 
taking place. Hurst's mere presence made her 
shudder. He was as cold-blooded as a fish, and 
was buying her just as he might have bought a 
chair or a table to furnish his house. He understood 
thoroughly that she did not love him and wished 
to marry Toby ; j^-et in the face of her plainly- 
expressed scorn, he held to his bargain. The 
amazing thing was that a girl like Meliccnt should 
have such a father. He had no honour, no feelings, 
no chivahy, no sympathy. 

And yet Sylvia saw that she would be obliged to 
inarry him. When she was his wife her mother 
would be helped and placed above all financial 
troubles for the rest of her frivolous life. If she 
refused to marry', then there was nothing but ruin 

104 



THE CURSE OF HECATE. 105 

for her mother and for herself. Sylvia cared vciy 
little for ruin, so far as she personally was con- 
cerned. She was young, she was thoroughly well 
educated, and in one way or another would be 
able to earn her own living. Failing all else, she 
could marry' Toby and share his poverty, helping 
him, as his wife, to improve his circumstances as 
she best could. But her mother could not be 
helped by Toby, A\ho was so desperately poor, and 
what was to become of her ? On her \\'ay to town 
Sylvia racked her brain for some solution of the 
painful problem, but could find none. There 
seemed to be no help for it. She would have 
to many Hurst and sacrifice her young life for the 
sake of a selfish parent who thought only of herself 
and her pleasures. There was something mon- 
strous that such a sacrifice of one human being 
to the selfishness of another should be demanded. 
But, after all, a mother is a mother, and the 
sacrifice had to be mi'.dc. It was the relationship 
which so complicated matters. 

Mclicent received a weak scolding from her father, 
who was more querulous than angry. She took all 
tlie blame upon herself, and protested against being 
condemned as if she had done something wrong. 
She was engaged to Miles, she argued, so why 
shouldn't she see Miles on all and ever\' occasion. 
Besides, she had received the approval of her uncle 
and the help of her uncle. And, after all, no one 
had seen her or Sylvia either coming or going. 

" You are making a mountain out of a molehill, 
father," said Melicent. 

" Well, it's not to happen again," said her parent, 
weakly cross. " It didn't matter so much about 
you going, but you had no business to take Sylvia." 

" I couldn't go alone. I had to chaperone Sylvia." 

" Your future mother." 



io6 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Stepmother,, father, though I doubt if she ever 
will be. Sylvia is a dear girl, and if she will make 
you happy I shall be glad to see you married to her. 
But you don't seem to care much for her, father." 

" She suits me as a wife," said the Squire doggedly. 

" You haven't experienced what she'll be as a 
wife yet, father. And, anyhow, she loves Toby 
Smith and doesn't love you." 

" I know all about that. Love doesn't enter into 
the matter." 

" Why not ? " Melicent opened her eyes widely. 
" I thought that love was necessary for a happy 
marriage." 

" Not in this case. Sylvia and I will be perfectly 
happy as soon as she recognises what is due to me, 
and that is respect." 

" Were you ever in love, father ? " asked the girl, 
mystified. 

" I liked your mother," he replied evasively. 

" Liking isn't love." 

" And asking questions isn't politeness," cried 
Hurst, exploding in a kind of weak rage. " Go 
away, Melicent, and don't you lead Syh-ia astray 
any more." 

Melicent did go away. She could not understand 
her father. As with Sylvia, the parental relation- 
ship comphcated matters. Her father was her 
father, and had to be regarded as such ; but there 
was no true bond of feeling between them other than 
the mere flesh and blood one. The girl was young, 
very warm-hearted and ardent, liking and disliking 
thoroughly with all her feelings, so she could not 
respect the half-hearted manner in \\'-hich the Squire 
behaved. He was polite, polished, even gallant, 
but there was no depth in him, and he was incapable 
of decided action, right or wrong. After Sylvia's 
departure, and M-hen Miles came one day to the Hall, 



THE CURSE OF HECATE. 107 

she asked his opinion. All the j^oung man could do 
v\as to quote Toby as a medical authority. 

" He says that your father is suffering from a want 
of blood. His heart is weak ; his blood is thin ; he 
lacks vitality. All the flesh and blood strength of 
the family is stored up in your uncle." 

" I am strong enough," said Melicent, resenting 
this statement. 

" I allude to the last generation, of course. Don't 
be too hard on your poor father, dear. He can't 
help being born a weakling." 

" He is not a weakling in some things, Miles. 
For instance, he v.-ill insist upon marr\-ing Sylvia, 
although he knows that tie will make her miserable." 

" Your father hasn't enough imagination to con- 
reive that and, moreover, like all weak people, is 
intensely selfish and obstinate, if you will pardon 
my saying so." 

" Oh, yes," replied the girl \'aguely. " I brought 
your veiy frank explanation upon myself." 

No more was said at the time, as Miles felt some 
delicacy in continuing the subject introduced by the 
daughter of the man who was being discussed. Bui 
Melicent felt that what Toby Smith said was true ; 
her father was a Aveakling, and if he lived to the age 
of Old Parr would be nothing else. It was a painful 
thought to a girl, who loved a man to be a man, but 
there was no remedy for it that she could see. E\en 
his second marriage, with a beautiful woman like 
Syh'ia, would lea\'e him where he was, flaccid and 
inactive. Why her father should be thus debilitated 
she could not imagine. It was not that the Hursi 
race was worn out, for there v/as plenty of red blood 
in the veins of her uncle and of herself. Both, 
making allowance for the difference between their 
ages, were eager for enjoyment. Ralpli for his 
books, and she for life of whatever description, rural 



io8 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

or urban. Melicent gave up trying to understand 
how she came to have such a father, and accepted the 
fact with as much philosophy as she was capable of 
conceiving. After all, he v/as not a tyrant, and, on 
the whole, was fairly easy to li\'e with. 

For two or three days after Sylvia's departure 
things went on as usual, and nothing of importance 
happened. Unaware of Mam'zcl's machinations, and 
knowing that she intended to return to Paris, the 
Squire fell back into his old Hstless ways. He dressed 
smartly, as usual, took his little walks in the park, 
played billiards with his brother after dinner, and 
read a little before going to bed. Melicent felt very 
much bored. Sylvia M'as absent and would not return 
for a fortnight, when they would come down for a 
few days, as Lady Gibson AM'ote. There was no one 
to talk to save Miles, and although being in lo\-e the 
girl found him a host in himself, she nevertheless felt 
she would like to see some members of her o^^'n sex. 
But most of the girls she knew were in town for 
the season. Melicent wished to go also for a few 
days to London, but her uncle persuaded her not to 
leave the Hall until Mam'zel Clarice cleared out, 
as he put it. 

" But when will she clear out ? " asked Melicent, 
A\-ho had sought the library in order to ask the ques- 
tion about going to London. 

"On Friday." 

" Are you sure ? " 

" Positive. By her tiying to get that key she has 
placed herself within the reach of the law. I went 
and told her so, saying that your father would cer- 
tainly prosecute her if she did not leave Grenacer." 

" And she agreed ? " 

" She couldn't do anything else," said Ralph 
coolly. " I pointed out to her that I would prevent 
her, at all costs, from seeing your father again and 



THE CURSE OF HECATE. 109 

pressing her ridiculous claim. I reminded her that 
through Lady Gibson I had sent her one hundred 
pounds ; — that is, your father desired it to be given 
to her, since he did not wish the daughter of his old 
tutor to be left penniless. I advised Mam'zel to go 
back to Paris and take up her secret service business 
with the French police, as the career offered many 
chances for the de\elopment of her spying propensi- 
ties. So she is going, for Jum — I set Jum to watch 
her — says that she has sent her box to London." 

" Why can't she take it with her ? " 

" Oh, she explained. You know that your father 
kindly gave her a motor-cycle to travel to and from 
Scrbery for the school business. Well, Mam'zel 
intends to take a small bag and travel to London on 
the machin*\ I daresay she will sell it in London, 
secure her box, and cross the Channel. Then that 
will be the end of her, and a good job too." 

Melicent nodded. " She would certainly make 
trouble if she stayed. But when can I go to London, 
Uncle Ralph ? " 

" Why not ask your father ? " 

" Oh, you know \\-]iat father is. He never wants 
me to go away. But he alwaj's does what you advise, 
so " Melicent waited in eloquent silence. 

Ralph laughed whole-heartedly. " I see. Well, I 
am going to London on Friday myself to see Lady 
Gibson and Sylvia on your father's behalf." 

" Why ? " 

" Oh, your father wants Lady Gibson to under- 
stand that Sylvia's escapade makes no difference to 
his feelings towards her. You know that, as Sylvia 
docs not wish to marry your father, she may have 
told some cock-and-bull stoiy in order to break off 
the match." 

" I wish it was broken olf," said Melicent angrily. 
" I think it's a shame for Sylvia to be forced into 



Tio THE BLACK IMAGE. 

marriage with father, who is much too old for her, 
and who doesn't really care for her. Besides, she 
loves Toby." 

" Precisely ; and that's why I am going up to make 
it clear that your father is of the same mind. I'll 
ask Lady Gibson if you can go and stay with her for 
a week, and will persuade your father to let you go." 

" Thank you, uncle. I don't like Lady Gibson, but 
I love Sylvia, and if you can get father to give me 
plenty of money we can go shopping." 

" That can easily be arranged. But you under- 
stand, Melicent, that I go up on Friday morning. 
Mam'zel, I believe, goes on Friday evening. I travel 
b}^ train, and she on her motor-cycle. So if she 
tries to get in and see your father after I go, and 
before she goes, mind you prevent her." 

" Yes ; I'll get ^liles to come here for the evening. 
He can deal with her." 

" I hope so," said Ralph gloomily ; " but Mam'zel 
Clarice is a clever woman and a dangerous woman. 
I shan't feel safe about 3'our father until she is in 
Paris. She might try to stick him again as she tried 
before." 

" Oh, she was only in a rage," laughed Melicent, 
with the easy confidence of youth. " She won't 
make such a fool of herself again." 

" Let us hope she won't. Anyhow, you are wise 
to get Miles to come and see you on Friday evening. 
He will be able to arrange things should there be 
trouble of any kind." 

Melicent did not think that there would be trouble, 
and thought that her uncle was making a great fuss 
about nothing. However, she asked Miles to come 
to dinner on Friday, and suggested that he should 
stay until nine o'clock at least, since Mam'zel — as 
Jum learned from the landlady who had seen better 
days— intended to start for London about eight 



THE CURSE OF HECATE. iii 

o'clock. Once the adventuress was out of the place 
Melicent felt that she could breathe freely, for, in 
spite of her nonchalance when speaking to her uncle, 
she was a trifle afraid. The hand of Hecate, as she 
remembered, had closed and was still closed. If the 
legend was to be believed (and the girl thoroughly 
did believe it), misfortune would come to the Hursts. 
And, so far, trouble certainly had come, though not 
actual misfortune. But a cloud in a blue sky may 
change from white to grey, and the grey can change 
swiftly from that to black, bringing thunder and 
lightning, devastation and wreckage. So there was 
yet time for disaster to happen. Melicent said so 
in the drawing-room to Miles after dinner, and 
shivered with apprehension as she spoke. She 
would not have made the remark had her father 
been present, since she did not wish to rack his 
nerves. But he had retired to his study to read the 
evening papers, which had just arrived, and she was 
alone with Miles in the drawing-room. Ralph had 
gone to London by the morning train, and Mam'zel 
— ah, where was Mam'zel ? "I wish Jum would 
come and tell us she has gone," said Melicent 
anxiously ; " for while she remains in Grenacer I 
feel sure that — as T said. Miles — there is time for 
disaster to happen." 

"Oh, that statue has got on your nerves," said 
the barrister, trying to laugh the girl out of her fears, 
" and it's all nonsense an^'how." 

" Well, you must admit that only since the hand 
of Hecate closed has trouble come to this house." 
v^i" It came with Mam'zel Clarice and it will go with 
her. It's half-past eight now," added Miles, glancing 
at his watch. " Jum will be here soon." 

As he spoke there came a sharp knock at the door, 
and the boy entered with the welcome information 
that Miss Brown had taken her departure. " She 



112 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

went off on her cycle, with a small bag, and dressed 
as a boy," explained Jum. 

" In which direction did she go — to Serbery ? " 
" No, miss ; she went along the Brant road." 
" Brant is only four miles away," said Melicent. 
" I expect she is going to catch the train there to 
London." 

" No ; remember your uncle told us that she was 
riding to London. The Brant road is a better one 
than the Serberj- one, as there are not so many 
turnings." 

" I see." ]\Ielicent drew a breath of relief. 
" Thank you, Jum, You can go now. You are 
sure that Mam'zel really has gone ? " 

" Quite sure. miss. I saw her slipping along the 
Brant road in the twilight as hard as she could," 
and with a pleased grin he vanished rapidly, after 
his usual meteoric fashion. 

" Now, are you satisfied ? " said Darch, taking 
Melicent in his arms. 

" Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! " She broke away and began 
to dance about the room. " I feel quite happy and 
merry and gay. Oh, what a relief. Miles ! " 
" And the closed hand ? " 

" Perhaps it will open again to-morrow. After 
all, we've had a lot of bother about Mam'zel and her 
visits, so perhaps Hecate will relent and let the 
Hursts off further trouble." 

" i\Ielicent, you are silly to connect this woman's 
doings with that confounded statue. If I had my 
way I'd melt it down." 

" I'd never let you do that seeing how much it 
has to do with the luck of the family," said Melicent 
sharply. " Of course when we marry you'll be 
master here when we inherit the property ; but you 
mustn't meddle with Hecate." 

*' Well, I won't, darling. As to coming here, we 



THE CURSE OF HECATE. 113 

never may come. If your father m.arries again, he 
may have a son and heir." 

" Oh, well," cried the girl gaily, and full of joy 
now that the shadow of Mam'zel Clarice had passed 
away. " I don't care. We can live on your five 
hundred a year, and I can learn to sew and cook and 
bake and boil." 

" I don't think you'll need to do that," said the 
barrister gravely. " See here, Melicent, I intend to 
chuck my idea of a rural life and to go in seriously 
for my profession." 

" That's a new idea," Melicent raised her eyebrows. 

" It's Jum's idea, though he doesn't know it. 
XMien I see that lad so anxious to get on and working 
so hard to take advantage of his opportunities, I 
feel a slacker ; and a slacker, Melicent, isn't worthy 
of you." 

" Oh, you're not so bad as that, Miles," she 
faltered, looking down. 

" Yes, I am," he answered almost fiercely. " That 
lad, with his perseverance, has taught me a lesson, 
although he doesn't know it. Think of how he 
spoke when he came here a year ago, and think how 
he speaks now. It's wonderful. No, Melicent, the 
time is past for rural bliss and lazy pleasures." 

" You work hard enough in your garden. Miles." 

" I'll work harder at my profession, and," he 
caught her to him fondly, ""^for your sake, my dear 
little girl." 

Melicent buried her face in his breast. " I'm glad, 
I'm glad," she said softly. " I really do wish you 
to work and become great. • I have an idle father 
with no ambitions, and I want a hard-working 
husband with many." 

" Let us limit the ambition to one thing — the 
woolsack," said Darch with a laugh, but very 
much in earnest. "And now you understand my 

H 



114 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

programme and Mam'zel has gone for ever, I shall 
go. It's nine o'clock." 

" Say good-night to father," urged the girl, and 
with a nod he consented. 

The Squire was comfortably seated in his study, 
with the door open, on account of the heat. He had 
laid aside his newspaper and was reading a novel. 
Beside him, on a small table, stood the lamp, and in 
the dim twilight outside could be seen the menacing 
figure of Hecate, with her clenched hand ominously 
upraised. Melicent shivered at the sight, which 
recalled her many fears, but now that the cause of 
such fears, in the person of Mam'zel Clarice, was 
gone she laughed at herself for her folly. Laying her 
hand on the Squire's shoulder, she told him that 
they had both come to say good night. 

"It's early yet," said Hurst, laying aside his book 
reluctantly. " I don't intend to go to bed myself 
until midnight." 

" Oh, father, when you have been so sick." 

" I wasn't sick, only worried by that confounded 
woman with her whims. However, she has gone. 
Ralph arranged that, so I feel quite well and don't 
intend to worry about her any more. Won't you 
stay for a glass of wine ? " he asked the young man. 

" No ; I wish to get home. Besides, Melicent is 
tired and intends to go to bed straight away." 

" Ah, and I'm no company for you when Melicent 
is away. That's love, I suppose. Miles. Queer 
thing. I've never been in love myself. Well, good 
night, good night. Kiss me, Melicent. I shall stay 
here and read this book. Send Frint to me with 
a brandy and soda." 

The 3'oung people took their leave and Melicent 
saw Miles to the door to kiss and dismiss him. It 
was a hot night, and the mists were rising in the 
park, which looked gloomy with its dense foliage 



THE CURSE OF HECATE. 115 

under the starry sky. There was no moon and no 
wind either, which Miles regretted, as he felt very 
warm indeed. With Melicent's farewell kiss on his 
iips, he strode down the dark avenue and left her 
standing at the door. So long did she stand that 
Mrs. Print found her there. 

" Bless me, miss, you'll take a chill," said the 
bustling housekeeper. " Do come in and let me 
bolt the door. I've taken your pa his nightcap, and 
I'm going to bed. He won't want anything more 
to-night." 

" You're going to bed early. Print," said Melicent, 
while the housekeeper bolted and barred the great 
door. 

" And so's every mortal soul in this house, my 
dear," she replied with a sigh, " for we're all wore 
out considerable with the heat. Good night, miss, 
and if you can spare a kiss which Mr. Miles don't 
want " 

Melicent, who was very fond of the voluble, vulgar 
old woman, kissed her heartily and then ran up the 
shallow oak stairs to her bedroom. It was in the 
east wing of the house, far away from the front and 
from the Sanctuary. Melicent was always glad of 
this, as she disliked the Sanctuary, with its gloomy 
funereal trees and grim black image. But, on the 
whole, she felt very happy on this night, and tried 
to put the statue out of her head. Mam'zel was 
gone, her father was better in health, and Miles had 
expressed his intention of doing justice to his mental 
powers. Putting aside the miserable affair of Sylvia 
and the forced marriage, which was always disagree- 
able, there was nothing to worry about. Hecate 
might have exhausted the contents of her closed 
hand in the various petty worries of the last week 
or so. Only in one way could Melicent see any 
future trouble coming. 



ii6 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Sylvia's marriage," she murmured to herself, as 
she tumbled into bed, feeling unusually heavy and 
drovvsy. " If father marries her and she grows tired 
she may elope with Toby. But I shan't trouble 
about that. I shan't trouble." Here her thoughts 
grew confused and shortly she w^as sound asleep, 
like the healthy young animal she was. 

As a rule, Melicent slept too deeply to dream. 
But on this night she did dream a great deal. Nor 
were the dreams pleasant. Somehow the statue had 
come to life and was stalking after her grimly down 
a long road bordered by cypress trees. Her hand 
was still clenched, and she wished to show Melicent 
what was in it. But the girl in her dream was over- 
come with fear, and fled for miles, through many 
years, as it seemed, in her efforts to escape the evil 
image. Finally Hecate caught her, laid a heavy 
arm on her shoulder and opened the closed hand 
directly under her eyes. What she saw there the 
girl could not remember when she awoke, for at that 
moment she did awake. And in a terrible fright, 
too, for something horrible was disclosed by the 
opening of the hand. With a cry Melicent sat up 
in bed, streaming with perspiration and shaking in 
every limb. She was thankful to see that the dawn 
of day had come, for if she had awakened in the dark, 
with that terrible dream as vivid in her brain as it 
now Vv^as, she would have been scared to death. 
Sitting up, she leaned her head on her hands and 
tried to think what was the object revealed by the 
open hand. Suddenly, when it was quite light, there 
was a cry and a rush, and Mrs. Frint swept into the 
room, haggard and tearful. 

" Miss, miss, your pa is dead. Your pa has been 
murdered." 

Melicent stared at her quite dazed. " It's the 
curse of Hecate," she muttered stupidly. 



CHAPTER IX. 

A NINE days' wonder. 

MRS PRINT wore an emerald-hued dress, 
adorned with yellow ribbons, and the 
aggressive contrast between this gay garb 
and her terrified looks was markedly striking. Her 
whole body was trembling, her legs failed to support 
her, and she dropped into a chair to UTing her hands 
and weep. Melicent, not able as yet to quite under- 
stand the terrible news, stared at her in a dazed 
manner. The shock unsettled her thinking powers 
for the moment. 

" The curse of Hecate," wailed jMrs. Print, shaking 
like a jelly and rocking to and fro. " Is that all you 
can say, miss. Don't I tell you as your poor dear pa 
is dead with a knife in his heart." 

" It's the curse of Hecate," repeated the girl, 
springing from the bed and becoming much more 
alive to the situation. " It was said that when her 
hand closed misfortune would come to the Hursts, 
and it has come. I always said it would. Father 
dead ! Oh, it's impossible ! " 

Hardly aware of the contradiction convc3^ed by the 
latter part of her speech, Melicent snatched up her 
dressing gown, thrust her bare feet into slippers, 
and ran out of the room. Mrs. Print, crying and 
trembling tottered after her, and arrived in the study 

J I 7 



ii8 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

to find Melicent kneeling by her dead father, 
supporting his head in her lap. The Squire was, 
as the girl had seen him last, in evening dress, but 
his expansive shirt front was soiled with blood, 
where the knife had penetrated the heart. The 
knife itself, an ugly-looking weapon, evidently 
taken from the trophy over the fireplace, lay on 
the carpet beside the body. Melicent stared at the 
still white face directly under her eyes, and then 
raised them to see the Black Image with its raised 
arm and clenched fist towering menacingly in the 
bright morning sunshine. Two chairs were over- 
turned and many loose papers had been swept off 
the table, while the book Hurst had been reading lay 
beneath it. One window was open and so was the 
door. 

"Go back, go back! " cried Mrs. Print to the 
scared servants, who were peering into the room. 
" Don't come in until I send for you. Miss Melicent 
you shouldn't have touched the body. It must lie 
as I found it until the police come. Get up, there's 
a dear, though a shock it's bin to you as to me, may 
the Lord have mercy on us both." 

" Poor father," murmured the girl, whose face was 
pale, but with dry eyes, for she felt too horrified to 
weep, " to think he was alive and well when I left 
him last night ' ' — she raised her head and looked a t 
the housekeeper — " you saw him later than I did." 

Mrs. Print nodded and sobbed. " I took him in 
his nightcap. Brandy and soda it was, with a biscuit. 
He was sitting in that chair reading, and said he 
wouldn't want anything more. Then I went to 
bed : you saw me go to bed, miss, after you kissed 
me. Lord knows I ain't got nothing to do with 
the master's being as dead as a herring." 

" No one suggests such a thing," said Melicent 
mechanically, " when did you find him dead ? " 



I 



A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 119 

" Just after seven, and it's not eight o'clock yet," 
sobbed the stout woman hj^stericahy, " I came in to 
dust and tidy up, for you know, miss, as your pa 
never let any one but me do that. He was lying 
there, just as you saw him, and you should have 
left him alone, miss." 

" Was the door open ? " asked Melicent, remem- 
bering that on account of the heat it had been 
standing wide on the previous night. 

" It was, miss. I expect some one got into the 
house in that way and knifed him, pore dear." 

" From the Sanctuary ? Impossible. You know 
that no one can get into the Sanctuary;" 

" Walls can be climbed, miss. And if you'll 
look out, you'll see that the ladder as was used to 
examine the closed hand of that dratted stater is still 
there. Bin made use of too, I should say." 

This was extremely likely, as the ladder rested 
against the wall to the left of the image, and any 
interloper could descend it with ease. But how 
such a person could mount the wall from the outside 
Melicent could not conjecture at the moment. 
However, it was useless to sit on the floor with the 
head of her dead father in her lap, since there was 
much to be done. No one could take charge of the 
situation save herself, as her uncle was away in 
London, and Miles was at the other end of the 
village. Melicent kissed the rigid white face, laid 
her father's head gently on the ground, and covered 
it with a handkerchief silently handed by Mrs. 
Print. Then she rose, and forced herself to attend 
to matters of moment. 

" Send Jum at once for Mr. Darch," she said 
rapidly, " and tell him to bring Dr. Smith with him 
also. One of the grooms can go for the policeman. 
Keep the servants in order until I dress, and don't 
lose your head. No one is to enter this room, until 



120 THE BLACK IMAGK. 

Mr. Darch arrives. I'll lock the door so as to make 
sure that nothing is disturbed." 

" You've disturbed things yourself, miss, by 
meddling with the body," complained Mrs. Print, as 
they left the room and Melicent locked the door 
" but, lor, it don't matter, though it's a pity you did 
not leave it alone. I'll do what you say, miss. 
But do try and cry, deary. Tears will relieve your 
heart." 

" I can't cry," said Melicent, sighing. " I wish 
I could, but I can't. Some things are too terrible 
for mere tears. Go and do what I tell you. Print." 

The housekeeper with a scared glance at the pale 
face of her young mistress gulped down her grief 
and hurried away, still trembling and shaken to the 
very core of her being. Just as Melicent was 
mounting the stairs in order to dress, Mrs. Print 
hurried back. " Shouldn't you telegraph to Mr. 
Ralph, miss. He ought to know at once." 

" He is returning by the midday train," replied 
the girl after a pause, " so he will learn the horrible 
truth soon enough." 

" But to prepare him for the shock, miss," urged 
Mrs. Print, " to get him ready as you might say, 
by breaking the news gently." 

" Do as you like. Print. You know the name of 
the hotel Uncle Ralph generally stays at. The 
groom who goes to bring the policeman can take the 
telegram." 

Melicent issued the order rapidly and then ran to 
her room. In a wonderfully short space of time she 
was dressed; and put on a black frock, since death 
was in the house. Although not desperately fond 
of her father, owing to his never seeking her affection, 
the girl had sufficient love for him to be terribly 
shocked by his death. And such a death ! It was 
heartrending to think that the quiet, harmless 



A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 121 

little man could bo struck down in this barbarous 
fashion by a cruel enemy. And Melicent had no 
doubt as to the name of that enemy. Mam'zel 
Clarice had undoubtedly killed the Squire. But 
how she could have entered the house, seeing that the 
key of the postern had been recovered, Melicent 
could not imagine. Unless — and this idea was 
suggested by Mrs. Print's mention of the ladder — 
she had climbed over the wall of the Sanctuary, to 
descend the same and enter the study by the open 
door. So far as the girl's bewildered brain could 
grasp things, this was the sole conclusion she could 
arrive at. 

And with this belief that Mam'zel Clarice had 
stabbed her father came her tears. The sudden 
announcement of Mrs. Print had paralysed the girl, 
and the actual sight of the dead body had stunned 
her. But now that she knew the worst, and had a 
glimmering idea as to how the worst had been 
brought about, she began to cry bitterly. In many 
ways she recalled her father's kindness, for although 
he was usually weak and indifferent and wrapped up 
in himself, yet on the whole he had been kind. He 
had never grudged her any money, or any pleasure 
within reason, and had even taken a kind of feeble 
pleasure in her good looks and vivacious nature. 
Melicent reproached herself somewhat unnecessarily 
for not having appreciated him more, although 
he had really patiently endured her filial advances 
rather than accepted them. But the girl being 
generous and affectionate, blamed herself for neglect, 
and wept bitterly. It was the result of the usual 
parental and filial complication of two diverse 
natures being brought into close contact, which 
engendered some mysterious sympathy which 
could not be put into words. Hurst had always 
been indifferent to his daughter and Melicent had 



122 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

always been chilled by that indifference. Still, 
the inexplicable bond of father and daughter existed, 
and it was this which made the girl weep for the loss 
of one with whom she had nothing else in common. 

However, weeping was of little use, since it could 
not bring back the dead, so Melicent dried her eyes 
and went downstairs to await the coming of Miles. 
Hardly had she reached the drawing-room — she 
avoided the study in which the body lay — than 
Mrs. Frint announced his arrival. He brought the 
doctor with him, and they were both horrified by 
the calamity. Miles entered hurriedly, and walked 
across the room to take Melicent in his arms. She 
ran forward to throw herself into them, and Darch, 
while soothing her, nodded to Toby as an intimation 
that he had better leave the room. So Toby went 
and inter\dewed the village policeman, who also 
had arrived, while Miles comforted the orphan. 

'.' Cry dearest ; cry," said the young man tenderly, 
" it will do you good." 

Melicent shook her head. " I have cried up- 
stairs," she said woefully, " and I feel that tears 
won't do any good. Only — only — Miles you don't 
think that I neglected father." 

The young man led her to the sofa, sat down and 
took her on his knee, to hold her weary head against 
his breast. " No, dear, no," he said softly, " you gave 
your father all the affection he wanted. Had he 
shown any desire j^ou would have given him more. 
But a self-centred nature such as he had — but 
there, he is dead, so I shan't say anything more. 
Only don't blame yourself Melicent. You did 
what you could." 

" Are you sure : quite sure ? " 

" Quite sure." Darch petted her. " Don't make 
imaginary troubles for yourself, darling. There 
are quite enough as it is." 



A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 123 

" That woman killed him, Miles." 
" What makes you think that ? " 
" Miles," the girl raised her face to look at him in 
amazement, " who else could have done so ? " 

"Oh, I understand what you mean. But Jum 
told us that he saw her on the motor-cycle making 
for Brant at eight o'clock last night. And as your 

father was murdered much later, " 

" There was time for the woman to go to Brant 
and return from Brant. On a motor-cycle she 
could be here, there and everywhere, easily." 
" But she was going to London." 
" So she said, and so we believed. But she did 
not go. Miles. She returned to murder my father." 
" But how did she get into the house ? " 
" I believed she climbed over the wall of the 
Sanctuary. The ladder we used to examine the 
closed hand of Hecate is still there, leaning against 
the inner wall. She could have descended by that." 
" Granted. But how could she have ascended 
the outer wall ? " 

" I don't know," said Melicent, hopelessly, " but she 

is guilty. I saw her myself try to kill my father with 

that knife she snatched from the wall of the study." 

"You forget that I saw her also," he said quickly. 

" Well ? " 

" Well, it is that very knife with which my father 
has been stabbed. I recognised it at once. Uncle 
Ralph told me at the time that it was an Afghan 
knife. That woman failed to kill father the first 
time, she succeeded the second time, and acted 
in precisely the same way. 1 wonder you didn't 
immediately guess the truth." 

" I did "think that Mam'zel Clarice had killed 
your father when Jum came with the news. But 
remembering how the boy had seen her leave 
Grenacer 1 thought that I was mistaken." 



124 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" People who go, can return," said Mclicent, 
shaking her head, " 1 haven't the least doubt but 
what she is guilty." 

" Nor have I, now that you have explained the 
method of the murder. However, my dear," 
Miles rose quickly, " we must look into matters. 
Have you telegraphed for your uncle ? " 

"Mrs. Frint has. She suggested doing so. And 
I have sent for Walters." 

" The village policeman. That is wise. Let us 
see if he has arrived, I dare say Toby who came 
with me, has examined the body by this time." 

" He can't have done so," said the girl quickly. 
.'.' Lve locked the door of the study and have the 
key in my pocket." 

"A very wise precaution," was Darch's reply, 
" Things must be left as they were found until the 
police take charge." 

" Mrs. Frint found my father dead. Miles. But 
I took his head on my lap, although she said that I 
shouldn't have touched him." 

" It would have been wiser not to. Anyhow no 
one can say a word against your action which was 
the outcome of affection. Come, let us see Walters." 
The village constable was a burly man with a red 
face and mild blue eyes, not particularly clever, 
but shrewd to a certain degree. His waiting for 
the key of the study was due to his respect for 
Melicent's natural grief. Meanwhile, he had heard 
all that was to be heard from Mrs. Frint, and was 
talking the matter over with the doctor when the 
young couple appeared. Melicent at once gave him 
the key. 

" You will take charge of everything, Walters," 
she said, striving to be calm. 

" Yes miss, until my superior officer comes. I 
have telegraphed to Serbery for the Inspector. 



A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 125 

Jupp is his name, miss, and if any one can come at 
the truth he will. A clever man is Inspector Jnpp, 
miss, x^nd if I may say how very sorry I am, 
miss " 

" Yes ! Yes ! " Melicent waved her hand as they 
went to the study. " I know you are sorry, Walters, 
But don't say anything more, or I shall break down." 

"I quite "^understand, miss," said the constable 
sympathetically, and slipped the key into the lock. 

Smith made a hasty examination and decided that 
the old man had died immediately, almost without 
pain, which was a comfort to INIelicent. The blow 
must have been delivered with extraordinary force 
as it had pierced the stiff shirt front and penetrated 
the heart. How deeply, it was impossible to saj', 
until the post mortem was held. Then Walters 
examined the room, to find that the door was 
open while only one of the two narrow windows 
was closed. 

He also noted the books and loose papers hdng on 
the floor and the two overturned chairs. Thence the 
policeman searched what Mrs. Print called the 
garden, and climbed the ladder reared against the 
wall. For a long time he peered over, stretching 
down his arms and looking carefully right and left. 
Wlien he descended, he turned to Miles. 

Would you mind coming with me sir, to examine 
the other side of the wall." 

" Certainly, Walters. But why ? " 

" There's a chestnut tree growing on the other 
side, sir, which some one must have climbed." 

" How can you tell that, Walters ? " 

" Some twigs are broken and some branches are 
swept aside. It's my opinion, sir," added Walters, 
in quite an official way, " that some one climbed the 
top 01" the wall by that tree and came down on this 
side by the ladder." 



126 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

"I knew it, I knew it," cried Melicent, clapping 
her hands. " Mam'zel Clarice ! " 

" Ah ! " said Walters sagaciously, for in common 
with the rest of the village he had heard the story 
of the woman's assault on the Squire. " Well I don't 
say anything yet miss, as we must have facts to go 
on. Best say nothing either, miss. Please wait here 
with the doctor until me and Mr. Darch come back. 
I dessay we'll learn something over the wall." 

The roundabout way to the hither side of the 
Sanctuary was down the avenue, through the gates, 
and along by the river. It was this way that 
Melicent and the others had come on the night of 
the visit. But at the back of the house there was a 
small gate, through which a quicker path could be 
gained to the wood encircling the walls. Through 
this Walters and the barrister went, and soon found 
themselves in the gloomy grove of densely growing 
trees which gave the Hall its name. This was 
Thor's Wood, and in Saxon da3^s had been dedicated 
to the Norse Thunder-god. His altar was tradition- 
ally reported to have stood where the statue of 
Hecate was now standing. Perhaps that was the 
reason why Amyas Hurst placed the image there 
knowing the sinister significance of the spot. 

Darch and the policeman threaded their way 
through the trees and the brushwood carefully, and 
came finally to the chestnut tree, supposed to have 
been climbed. As Walters had placed the clue in 
his hands. Miles looked about with keen, observant 
eyes for traces of some person having been in the 
wood. There were plenty, for the person — presum- 
ably Mam'zel Clarice — had not taken much care, or 
indeed any care, to hide the trail. Broken branches, 
torn off leaves, trodden grass, showed plainly that a 
human being had been there, since in so civilised a 
locality no destroying animals could have entered the 



A NINE DAYS' WONDER. 127 

woodland. The boughs of the chestnut tree grew 
close to the ground and it was easily climbed. 
Walters would have climbed it at once, but that 
Darch prevented him. 

" Better wait until Inspector Jupp does that," 
he said warningly, " he will want to get first-hand 
evidence, and you can put him on the track of it. 
We had better see how the assassin got into the 
wood, by following the outward trail." 

Walters thought that this was a good idea, so the 
two men, followed the evidences of a path having 
been forced through the undergrowth. Strictly 
speaking, Jupp should have been the first to do this 
also, but Darch was too impatient to wait. He 
had been sensible in not letting Walters climb the 
tree, but he was not sensible in following the out- 
trail, since the passage of himself and the constable 
might obliterate the traces left by the criminal. 
However, not thinking of this, the two pushed their 
way outward and soon gained the winding road 
which skirted the Gren. And here Darch made a 
discovery, which went far to excuse their hasty 
usurping of Jupp's function. 

*' See ! " said the barrister, pointing to some 
beaten ground by the side of the road, half-encircled 
by small bushes, " oil." 

" Oil ! " Walters stared at the ground and noticed 
certain iridescent tints which denoted that oil had 
been spilt. " What of that, sir ? " 

" It is Mam'zel Clarice after all who is guilty," 
said Darch, aloud. 

" Why do you think so, sir ? " said Walters 
dubiously, " 'cept that she said she'd stick the 
Squire and tried to do it, if what they say in the 
village is to be believed." 

" Mam'zel Clarice intended to leave this place, 
Walters, and did so last night on her motor-cycle. 



128 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

She was seen riding towards Brant. But she came 
back." 

" How do you know, sir? " 

" Because of this oil. The ground is too hard 
to show any marks of her machine, but she rested 
her cycle here, against these bushes, while she climbed 
the tree, descended the ladder and entered the house 
to stab the Squire. The oil of the machine dripped. 
Can't you see it." 

Walters fell on his knees and put his nose to the 
iridescent patch. " Yes, sir, and smell it too. It's 
oil, sure enough. Are you sure it comes from 
Mam'zel Clarice's motor-cycle ? " 

" Well, she has one you know, and the Squire has 
been murdered with the same knife as she previousl}'- 
snatched from the wall. I haven't the least doubt 
in my mind, but what she is guilt^r." 

" It looks like it," admitted Walters cautiously, 
" but if she came here on a motor-cycle, she went 
away on one." 

" There's no doubt of that. Well ? " 

" It'll be hard to catch her," growled Walters, 
scratching his head. 

" Harder than you know," said Darch grimly, 
and thinking of the woman's association with the 
French spy system, about which Melicent had told 
him, " she's as clever as a fox." 

Walters nodded, and as they returned by the 
same way to the study, he openly wished that his 
Inspector would come. " Seems to me as this case 
is getting a bit beyond me," said the man, perplexed. 

" Oh, I don't know. You have found out a lot," 
said Miles, giving all the praise to the man, which 
indeed he well deserved. 

To the policeman's relief the Inspector was already 
on the spot when the two seekers got back to the 
house. Jupp had motored over the moment he 



A NINE DAY'S WONDER. 129 

received the wire, and as the distance to Grenacer 
was not very great and his machine was a swift one, 
he had arri\'ed ver^^ quickly. Walters gladly handed 
over all responsibility to his superior officer and 
made his report. It was received with thanks, for 
Jupp recognised the value of the information. In 
his turn he climbed the ladder, but, unlike Walters, 
he descended the chestnut tree, and then followed 
the outward trail as the others had done. When 
he returned it was to say that he felt sure about the 
presence of the motor-cycle on the evidence of the 
spilt oil. Then he proceeded to examine those 
present, and soon obtained all information about 
Mam'zel Clarice. The look on his face when he 
concluded his examination showed plainly that he 
believed the woman to be guilty. And, indeed, 
people have been condemned on less positive 
evidence. 

" Now I'm going to the telegraph office to wire 
a description of the woman to various centres. 
I'll use the telephone also. Meanwhile, Walters, you 
look after things together with the three men I have 
brought over. And that image " 

" It's the cause of all the trouble," said Melicent, 
positively. 

" Ah," said Jupp, staring at Hecate, " I've heard 
something of the stor\'." 



CHAPTER X. 

M E L^I C E N T ' S V O W. 

IN due time Ralph Hurst arrived, as fast as train 
and motor could bring him to the scene of the 
crime. His clothes were in disorder, his face 
was haggard and pale, while he could hardly speak 
when he entered the drawing-room in which many 
people were assembled. Melicent was there, looking 
sorrowful and worn in her black dress, and Miles 
was beside her, anxiously attending to her every 
want. Smith was also present, and several of the 
servants and Inspector Jupp, who was asking them 
questions. Walters was on guard over the study 
and the body, while the other policemen were in 
various parts of the house. For the time being, 
military law, as it were, was established and Jupp 
held the reins of power. Ralph, covered with dust, 
looking more untidy and huge than ever, rushed 
into the room, and asked a question generally. 

" Print ! Where is Print ? " he demanded, " she 
sent me a telegram saying that my brother had been 
murdered. They say it is true in Serbery and in 
the village. Tell me, some one, if it is true ? " 

" Calm yourself Mr. Hurst," said the Inspector, 
who recognised him at once, " It is true. Why 
should you doubt it ? " 

" It seems so impossible after all my care." 
130 



MELICENT'S VOW. 131 

" Your care." Jupp looked the big man full in 
the face, " What do you mean ? " 

" My niece knows what I mean and so does Darch," 
said Ralph in a heart-broken tone, and sat down 
to hide his face. 

" Mr. Hurst means that he took all precautions to 
prevent Miss Brown from getting into the house. 
He feared lest she should injure the Squire," 
explained Miles quickly. 

" Miss Brown. Is that the woman known as 
Mam'zel Clarice ? " 

" Yes ! Her name is Clarice Brown and she is 
French on the mother's side. As she taught French 
in the Serbery School, she preferred to be known as 
Mademoiselle Clarice. Locally she was known as 
Mam'zel." 

" I knew she would do it if she could," groaned 
Ralph, raising his head, " ever since she snatched 
that knife from the wall and tried to kill him I knew 
she would, and I took all precautions to keep her out 
of the house. How, in Heaven's name, did she 
enter ? " 

" Climbed over the wall of that place where the 
image is," explained the Inspector, " but if you 
knew that she was bent upon murdering your 
brother why did you not have her arrested ? " 

" Because she promised to go away. My brother 
himself did not wish for her arrest. She is the 
daughter of his old tutor, for whom he had a great 
regard, and he wished to deal as gently as possible 
with her in spite of her uncontrolled temper, which 
led her to assault him." 

" Why did she assault him ? " 

Ralph rose and staggered to the door. " I'll 
answer your questions later. I want to see Frint 
now, and learn all about the matter." 

" Mrs. Frint has been examined and is so over- 



132 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

come that she has gone to He down," said Jupp, 
briskly, " and I think you had better he down also 
for a hour, Mr. Hurst. I'll talk to you later and 
then vou can tell mc all about this woman. You 
look 111." 

" I feel ill. My poor brother, Melicent," he 
turned back to embrace and kiss his niece, " only 
you and I are left of the family. We must revenge 
your father's death and get that vile creature 
hanged." 

" Don't ! Don't," said Darch, M'hen Melicent 
burst out crying, " you upset her, and she has 
enough to bear as it is." 

" We all have enough to bear and more than 
enough," muttered the big man in a dazed tone. 
" But I'll see Frint ! Poor Frint, she must be 
heart-broken. And to think that I was away. 
Oh, if I had only stayed ; if I had only remained 
to protect my brother." 

" Don't give way, Mr. Hurst," Jupp took the 
man's arm and guided him towards the door, " lie 
down until you feel better." 

" Yes, I'll lie down, but I'll see Frint first," said 
the man with a groan, and he stumbled out of the 
room in a dazed fashion. 

" I think I'll go to him," said Melicent, rising 
and drying her eyes. 

" No, leave him to himself until he grows calmer," 
said Miles, sensibly, " you are too sensitive yourself 
to console him. You'll only break down and then 
he will feel worse than ever. And I don't think 
that Mrs. Frint will do him much good either," 
finished Darch, grimly, for he was annoyed, for 
MeUcent's sake, that the housekeeper had not kept 
her head. 

So MeUccnt, with Darch 's arm round her, sat 
quietly listening to the examination of the servants. 



MELICEXT'S VOW. 133 

Jupp had already heard the story told b}^ Miss 
Hurst and her lover, and was in possession of all 
necessary facts from the time of Mam'zel's ill-omened 
visit to the hour when she had presumably left 
on her motor-cycle for Brant. He had learned also 
about her attempt to get the postern-key and how it 
was foiled by Jum. The page, as Frederick Marr 
— so he was solemnly addressed b}- the Inspector — 
confirmed the story of the young couple in every 
particular. He and the other servants declared 
that they had heard no cry for help on the previous 
night, and that the fact of the murder did not 
become known until the discovery made by ]\Irs. 
Frint when she went into the study at seven in the 
morning. The housekeeper had already told all 
she knew, and her evidence, together with that 
of the servants and the lovers, placed the Inspector 
in possession of all that was to be known. It only 
remained for him to question Ralph, and then he 
would be in a position to supply the jury at the 
inquest with all available evidence. 

Jupp took notes of the answers to his many 
questions, then dismissed the scared servants and 
afterwards gave instructions to Dr. Smith about the 
post-mortem. Then he advised Melicent to lie 
down, which she gladly did, being worn out with the 
events of the da}". Darch, the Inspector retained 
by his side, as he wished for his opinion. Miles 
was quite willing to give it, although, he privately 
thought that the whole case was such plain sailing 
that it needed little explanation from him. 

Jupp gave orders that the body of the Squire 
should be taken to his bedroom, which was 
accordingly done, and then asked Darch to come 
to the study. After the removal of the body this 
was put straight, and no trace remained of the grim 
scene save the stain of blood on the carpet and the 



134 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

absence of the Afghan knife from the trophy of 
arms over the fireplace. 

" What do you think of it all, Mr. Darch ? " 
asked Jupp abruptly, when they were alone, and as 
he spoke his eyes rested on the Black Image. 

" What can I think, but that this woman is 
guilty," said Darch promptly. 

" I am of that opinion myself. But what I wish 
you to explain is, why this crime should be associated 
with that statue." 

" I can't say, and in fact I can't sec how the two 
are connected." 

" Well," drawled Jupp, still staring at Hecate, 
" the news of how that hand had closed travelled 
even to Serbery, together with an account of the 
Hurst legend. A friend of mine who takes an 
interest in psychic matters, told me the story and 
was wildly excited when he heard that the hand 
was closed. I laughed at him. I don't laugh now." 
Jupp wheeled and looked at the barrister searchingly 
— so much that Darch expressed surprise. 

" Are you superstitious, Mr. Inspector ? " he 
asked with a shrug. 

" On the contrary I am very matter-of-fact, and 
that is why I don't laugh now at the closing of that 
statue's hand. The legend says that when it closed 
it would bring misfortune to the Hursts. It certainly 
has done so." 

" Well ? " queried Darch considerably mystified. 

" Well," echoed the officer impatiently, " can't 
you see that there is a connection between the 
image and the crime. Why should the hand be 
closed unless the person who closed it intended 
this murder." 

" Oh ! " Darch's breath was taken away by this 
supposition. " Then you don't believe that the 
statue closed it's hand itself? " 



MELICENT'S VOW. 135 

" No. Nor do 3'ou ; nor does any one except a 
fool. But why should the warning liave been given ? 
That is what I wish to know." 

" I can't tell you. The thing is beyond me." 

" Of course the hand being lead has been bent 
into the new shape," mused the Inspector. " It was 
closed by some one who knew the legend." 

" The whole village knew it." 

" Mam'zel Clarice also." 

Darch shrugged. " Presumably. When the hand 
was closed every one talked about it you know." 

" Yes. But the legend must have been known 
to Mam'zel Clarice beforehand, if she closed the 
hand by bending the fingers." 

" But did she ? " 

" Wei], she committed the crime we know," 
Jupp twisted his lean brown face into a wry smile, 
" the evidence goes to prove beyond all doubt that 
she is guilty. She must have known the legend and 
she must have closed the hand." 

" Well if you think so " 

" What else am I to think ? Unless there is 
some one who knew of her intention, and strove to 
give the late Squire a warning sign. Do you know 
of any one who would do that ? " 

" No. And the murder may not have been 
premeditated." 

" This woman tried to kill the Squire before ? " 

" Oh yes," admitted Darch, frankly. " I was 
present. But she made the attempt in a fit of 
passion because he refused her ridiculous claim to 
marry him, as Miss Hurst told you. She miglit 
have come to urge that claim again and then when 
he refused — as he certainly must have done — she 
might have lost her temper again and " — Darch 
spread out his hands to show that further explanation 
was wholly unnecessary. 



136 THE BLACK IMAGK. 

"I see all that," said Jupp thoughtfully, "all 
the same, I hold to my opinion that there is some 
connection between the crime and the image. What 
that connection is I wish to find out." 

" I can't help you. But here," Miles turned as 
the study door opened, " here is Mr. Hurst. He 
may be able to throw light on the subject." 

Ralph entered looking pale and stern and much 
older than his years. As a rule, owing to his jovial 
nature, he appeared young and full of vitality — a 
boy who had never grown up. But there was nothing 
of this eternal youth about his looks to-day. Sitting 
down with a sigh, he rested his large hands on his 
knees and shook his head sadly at the two men. 

" Poor Print has told me how she found my poor 
brother dead," he said in a slow, heav}^ waj^ " she 
is broken-hearted, as she has known Edgar and I 
since we were all children together. But I must not 
give way to grief," he added with an effort to pull 
himself together, " you wish to ask me questions, 
Mr. Inspector. Here I am at your service. By 
the way, what light can I throw on the subject, 
and what is the subject ? I heard Mr. Darch 
speaking when I entered. What have you been 
talking about ? " 

" That Black Image." Jupp pointed through the 
door. 

Ralph started. " That image," he frowned 
" I wish it was melted down and destroyed," he 
cried vehemently, " it has brought all this trouble 
down on us if the legend is to be believed." 

" Do you believe it, Mr. Hurst ? " asked the 
Inspector sharply. 

" As a story, yes — as a truth, no. All the same 
it is strange that the hand should close just before 
this misfortune has come. So far, the legend ha^ 
proved true." 



MELICENT'S VOW. 137 

" Any person vdio knew the legend could close 
the hand by bending the lead and then bring mis- 
fortune to pass," said Jupp pointedly. 

" I never thought of that," said Ralph looking 
startled again, as well he might when such a theory 
was placed before him. 

" Well, I have thought of it, and as Mam'zel Clarice 
is proved plainly to be guilty, I believe she has 
something to do with the matter of the statue." 

" But why should she trouble to close the hand, 
if she intended to murder my brother ? " asked 
Ralph, looking puzzled. 

" That's what I was talking to Mr. Darch about," 
said Jupp smartly, " the question is did she know 
the family legend ? " 

" Oh yes," replied Hurst unexpectedly. " When 
she visited here after her arrival in Grenacer, Edgar 
saw her in this room. She noticed the statue and 
afterwards I told her the story." 

" There ! " said Jupp ^riumphanth^ " what do 
you think of that, Mr. Darch ? " 

" I think you are a very clever man, Mr. Inspector, 
to have put two and two together. All the same, 
I can't see any more than Mr. Hurst can see, why 
she should have given this warning of misfortune 
when she intended to bring about the same. To 
say nothing of the fact, that I tried myself to 
straighten the fingers of that leaden hand and 
couldn't. How then could she bend them ? " 

" How indeed ? " said Ralph quickly, " unless 
she used some instrument. And as a member of 
the French Secret Service, she knew many tricks." 

" French Secret Service," repeated the Inspector 
sharply, " what's that ? " 

"Ah I forgot. You wish to ask me questions. 
Well, then, before you begin I shall tell you what I 
know of this woman. When she came over here to 



log THE BLACK IMAGE. 



^■j' 



ask for assistance, Edgar requested me to learn 
what I could about her life in Paris. I went over 
there at his expense and found out a great deal." 

Jupp was greatly interested in the story which 
Ralph now proceeded to tell him, and took m.any 
notes, while he asked many questions. The result 
of the new inform.ation confirmed him in his opinion 
that Mam'zel Clarice was guilt}' not only of the murder 
but of closing the hand of the image. It was just 
the kind of melodramatic thing which would appeal 
to the French side of her na.ture. When he replaced 
his pocket-book in its usual place next to his heart, 
the Inspector Iclt that he now knew everything 
necessar}/ to bring home the crime to the woman. 
But the question was, how to catch her. 

And it was Ralph who asked the question. 

" Oh I've wired and telephoned her description 
everywhere," said Jupp, standing up to take his 
leave, " she won't go far before she's in the hands of 
the police." 

" I have my doubts of that," said Hurst dryly. 
" Mam'zel hasn't been in the French Secret Service 
for nothing." 

Ralph's doubts proved to be correct, for although 
the police w'ere on the alert, and a description of 
the woman was circulated everywhere, no sign 
of her was found. She had disappeared as entirely 
as if the earth had swallowed her up, and when 
the day of the inquest came Mam'zel Clarice was 
still at large. Jupp was vexed, in spite of his success 
in placing before the twelve good and lawful men, 
so interesting and fully-stated a case. There was 
quite a crowd at the inquest from the surrounding 
countryside, for the dead man was well-known, 
and the connection of the famil}' legend with the 
matter gave uncommon interest to the proceedings. 
In fact, the fame of the Black Image had travelled to 



MELICENT'S VOW. ' 139 

London, and several leading newspapers sent down 
reporters to see what was taking place. And the 
reports lost nothing in the telling, since the journal- 
ists endeavoured, and with success, to make them as 
picturesque as possible by introducing the occult 
and the mysterious to flavour the prosaic occurrence 
of the murder. The crime and its psychic surround- 
ings was quite a nine days' wonder, even in a city 
which usuall}/ forgets sensational things in nine 
minutes. And of course a portrait of Hecate, with 
her closed hand, appeared in the picture papers. 

The evidence at the inquest was so plain that 
the jury had little difficulty in arriving at a sensible 
conclusion. A verdict of wilful murder was brought 
in against Clarice Brown, and with the consent of 
Melicent a reward was offered for her apprehension. 
It was a considerable sum, for the girl was determined 
to bring the murderess of her father to the dock. 
And she wished this the more so, as she still felt 
that she had not been so affectionate a daughter to 
her feeble father as she should have been. It was 
in vain that Miles assured her to the contrary, 
pointing out that she had done her best to soften 
the late Squire's rocky self-centred nature. Poor 
Melicent admitted that her father had been difficult 
in many ways but none the less condemned herself 
for an imaginary neglect, which no one but herself 
could see. 

After the inquest followed the funeral, and to that 
came crowds of morbid people as well as many, who 
really wished to pay respect to the Hurst family. 
The Squire was laid to rest in the famil}^ vault under 
the shadow of the square tower, and Mr. James 
eulogised the deceased, as a good landlord, a good 
friend, and good man, Edgar Hurst was certainly 
all that in a negative way, as he had never harmed 
any one and on the whole had used his position and 



T40 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

his money in a kindly way. He had been neither 
a good hater, nor a good lover, but something 
between the two, when his feeble will did exercise 
itself to express his feelings. He was not black 
and he was not white ; but simply a kind of grey 
colour, which meant nothing. So the world, as 
represented by the village of Grenacer was neither 
the better nor the worse for his passing over. 
Everybody had dry eyes at that funeral. 

When all was over Miles returned to the Hall 
with Melicent and her uncle in order to hear the will 
read. Darch was secretly surprised that Lady 
Gibson had not made a point of coming to see if 
the dead man had left her anything. But prostrated 
by the complete failure of her plans, the scheming 
matron was ill in London, and only sent a wreath 
to the funeral on behalf of herself and her daughter. 
Sylvia had written a letter of sympathy to Melicent 
and found it the most difficult epistle she had ever 
written. However, she said what she could, and 
Melicent knowing how hard it was for her friend 
to express herself under the circumstances, was 
quite content with what was said. So beyond 
j\liles, there was no one present to hear the will read 
since he alone had any connection with the family 
through his engagement to Melicent. She sat 
beside him feeling very much comforted by his 
presence and listened to the lawyer while holding 
her lover's hand. 

The will was very short. It left a few legacies to 
the servants with a particularly large one for Mrs. 
Print ; an annuity of three hundred a year to 
Ralpli, and the rest of the property entirely to 
Melicent. And as she would not attain the age of 
one and twenty for three months, Ralph was 
appointed her guardian mean^^"hilc. W'licn she did 
come of age the will directed that he was to hand 



MELICENT'S VOW. • 141 

over the property to his niece without reserve of any 
kind and that she was to be her own mistress, dealing 
with it as she pleased. Nothing could have been 
more concise than the document, so it took a very 
short time to read. 

W'hen the lawyer departed, Ralph took Melicent's 
hand and kissed her solemnly on the forehead in a 
most affectionate w^ay. " My dear," he said, " I 
am glad that 3'our father has made so sensible a will." 

" I wish he had left 3'ou a larger income," she said 
sadly, and touched by the affection of her uncle, 
"but I can give you more, uncle." 

" I don't want it my dear. All I ask is to remain 
in my library with my belo\'ed books. Though of 
course when you marry " — he looked at Darch. 

" I'm sure Melicent and I will want j^ou to stay 
here always," said Miles hastih', seeing that he was 
expected to say something. 

" Well, well. I am glad. And I wish iMelicent 
that you M^ould marry ]\Iiles at once. It will assuage 
your grief for your father my dear." 

"Oh, uncle, how can j-ou speak like that. I cant 
marry until my year of mourning has expired and 
I don't think Miles expects that I should." 

" You will do exactly as you please dearest." 

" And suppose I don't marry you at all." 

" Melicent ! " 

" I mean it ^lilcs. For I shall not marry you 
until you bring the woman who killed my father 
to justice. I have vowed that to myself." 



CHAPTER XI. 

SMALL NOTHINGS. 

AFTER the storm came the cahn, and Hfe at 
the Hall went on much the same as it had done 
before the tragic death of the Squire. Still 
there was a difference, as every one was much more 
subdued. Ralph, no longer laughed as jovially as 
he had done. Melicent brooded over imaginary 
shortcomings towards her dead father, and Mrs. 
Frint became suddenly old. The change was more 
apparent in her than in any of the others. Formerly, 
though a woman of fifty-four, she had never looked 
her age, owing to her bright disposition and comely 
face, together with her gay clothes and bustling 
habits. But after the tragedy, she, who used to be 
stout, became thin, and her face took on a terrified 
expression, which was accentuated by her black 
dress. Like Melicent she was in deep mourning 
and the dismal garb did not suit her. Although 
desiring all respect to be paid to the dead, Melicent 
sometimes wished that the housekeeper had retained 
her gay frocks, genial smile, and brisk habits. For 
as she was now, Mrs. Frint proved to be a thorough 
wet-blanket, and went about depressing every one. 
And, indeed, there seemed to be a dark cloud 
resting on the Hall. Ralph remained in his library 
even longer than usual, Melicent moped about the 

142 



SMALL NOTHINGS. • 1^3 

house, feeling tliorouglily miserable, and even 
the servants went on with their work in a half- 
hearted way, whispering and nodding as if they 
expected further calamities to befall the Hursts. 
As a matter of fact, this was just what they did 
expect, for the hand of Hecate was still closed, and 
that — as every one was positive from experience — 
meant that troubles were not yet at an end. But 
what further disaster, they looked for, it was im- 
possible to say. And throughout August the 
atmosphere of the house grew more and more 
dismal, until it seemed to be haunted and cursed. 
The villagers believed that it was and ascribed the 
unseen terror to the influence of the sinister Black 
Image, which still imposed its ominous spell on 
the Sanctuary. 

Mrs. Frint could not bear the sight of it. In 
common with others, she was intensely superstitious, 
and insisted that it was responsible for all the 
trouble. Formerly she occupied a bedroom, on 
the second story of the house, the window of which 
looked directly into the Sanctuary. But the 
sight of the accursed image was too much for her, 
so she moved up to the third story of the Hall, 
which consisted mainly of disused garrets. One 
of ^these at the very back of the house, she made 
her|bedroom, refusing to change it, in spite of 
Melicent's expostulations. Ralph himself, after his 
first outburst of sympathy with the old servant over 
his brother's death, took no notice of Mrs. Frint, and 
seemed inclined to blame her vaguely for not having 
protected Edgar from danger. Poor Mrs. Frint 
objected to this unjust condemnation, shadowy as it 
was, as she said very truly, that it had been out 
of her power to divert the disaster. But Ralph 
held to his opinion, although it was expressed in 
manner rather than in words, and rarely spoke 



i-,'4 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

to the wan woman. Indeed he had little occasion to, 
since Melicent, as the young mistress of the house, 
controlled domestic affairs and gave orders. But 
the attitude of the late Squire's brother did not 
tend to raise Mrs. Frint's spirits, which became 
lower than ever. 

Jum was the only lively person about the place. 
With the mercurial disposition of bo3/hood, he 
speedily recovered from the effects of the death, and 
darted about the house with his usual vivacity. 
In his bright blue suit with many buttons, he looked 
perfectly cheerful, and invariably had a merry grin 
on his face, which was quite a relief after the solemn 
visages of the others. The boy — as Melicent thought 
— seemed to have something on his mind ; but 
that something was of an agreeable nature, for he 
looked brightly important and seemed to consider 
himself a person of great consequence. This might 
have been induced by the memory of the prominent 
part he had played in watching Mam'zel Clarice ; 
but, as she had succeeded in her object, in spite 
of Jum's spying, this could scarcely have been the 
case. He had little to congratulate himself on, with 
regard to his work in that direction. Ralph rather 
tartly told him so on one occasion when the boy's 
whistling annoyed him, but the reproof did not 
seem to damp Jum's spirits. All he did was to keep 
out of Ralph's way, and as Hurst now took no more 
notice of him than he did of Mrs. Print, this was easy. 
Melicent was surprised to see how indifferent her 
uncle was to the lad in whom he had formerly taken 
so deep an interest. Jum's education was no longer 
superintended and he was left to get along as best 
he could b}^ himself. 

Miles came pretty regularly to the Hall, but was 
not by any means so cheerful a visitor as he had 
been. Since his determination to make the best 



SMALL NOTHINGS. 145 

of himself, he had been working hard in town at his 
profession, and thus was weary when he came back 
to Grenacer in the evening. He now saw chances 
of succeeding as a barrister, as he had induced 
various soHcitors to promise him briefs dealing with 
minor cases ; but he saw also that, to succeed in 
pleasing the lawyers, he would have to put his 
shoulder to the wheel, and burn the midnight oil. 
Therefore, employed as he was with law books and 
briefs, and Acts of Parliament, he sometimes stayed 
away from the Hall longer than Melicent approved 
of. She felt that the whole situation had changed 
for the worse, and said as much to her lover. 

The conversation took place in the drawing- 
room one evening, when a chill in the misty 
September air hinted that autumn had arrived. 
So damp and dismal was it out of doors, and so 
melancholy in the house, that the girl had ordered 
a fire to be lighted. Before this she was seated 
with Miles, and facing him across the hearthrug. 
They were alone after dinner, for, as usual, Ralph 
had retired to his beloved library. And a silence 
had ensued after a few attempts at conversation, 
for Miles was tired after an unusually hard day's 
work in his chambers, and did not feel disposed to be 
an agreeable rattle, after the fashion of young Marlow 
in Goldsmith's comedy. The silence got on Melicent 's 
nerves in spite of the cheerful fire, and her excellent 
dinner. To Darch's amazement she hid her face in 
her hands and burst into tears. In a moment, he 
left his chair and knelt at her feet trying to remove 
her hands. 

" My dearest girl, what is the matter ? " he asked, 
as she resisted this particular form of comfort. 

" I'm so wretched," sobbed Melicent vehemently, 
" ever since poor father's death things have been 
dreadfiU." 

K 



146 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" How dreadful ? " asked Miles, more for the 
sake of keeping up the conversation than because 
he had any need to inquire. 

" Oh you know, Miles. Uncle Ralph is either in 
the library or in town — he goes twice a week now 
and often three times. Mrs. Print is as dismal 
as I don't know what, and the servants go about 
whispering, as if they expected more trouble, while 
Sylvia hasn't written me for ever so long. And you 
are not the best of company either. It's all horrid. 
I wish I was at the bottom of the sea." 

" My dear." Miles put his arm round her waist, 
still kneeling, removed her two hands from her face 
and placed his dry cheek next to her wet one. " I 
know I'm rather quiet. But I am working so hard." 

" You shouldn't work so hard," said Melicent, 
rather unjustly. 

" Oh, my darling, when you wish me to make a 
name how can you say that. Unless I work hard, 
you'll never be the wife of the Lord Chancellor, you 
know." 

" I don't want to be if the Lord Chancellor is to 
be so taken up with his work that he has nothing 
to say to me." 

" Oh, but he won't be," protested Miles, laughing. 
" I'm only desperately hard at work now to make my 
name. When I have made it, then I'll have plenty 
of time to make you happy." 

" But it's the present time that makes me so 
unhappy, Miles. And you'll be years and years 
and years before j^ou are famous." 

Miles stifled a laugh. " That doesn't show much 
belief in my talents, does it dear ? Besides if you are 
having an unhappy time, I am having one also." 

" Oh, Miles." 

"Yes, I am," he persisted, "you refuse to 
marry me." 



SMALL NOTHINGS. 14;^ 

" Only until you capture that horrid woman." 
" And how am I to capture her ? She has 
vanished completely, and in spite of all the efforts 
of the police, she can't be found. I saw Inspector 
Jupp at Serbery yesterday and he has grave doubts 
if she ever will be found. In that case are you to 
remain a maid and I a bachelor for the rest of our 
natural lives ? " 

" I don't feel that it is right for me to marry 
while my father's death remains unavenged." 

" I should be only too glad to avenge it dearest 
Mam'zel Clarice well deserves to pay the penalty 
of her dreadful crime. But I can't find her ; nor 
can Jupp, nor the entire police force of the Three 
Kingdoms, to say nothing of the French police." 
" What have they got to do with it ? " 
" A great deal. Jupp thought that Mam'zel 
might have evaded the English police to take refuge 
in Paris, which after all is where she intended to go. 
Therefore he communicated with the French police. 
They can't trace her anywhere. So you see that 
if she doesn't appear — and, so far as I can see, there 
is no likelihood of her appearing — we can never 
marry. So I am as unhappy as you are." 

Melicent twisted her handkerchief. " I don't like 
being miserable," she said, after a pause. 
" Nor do I," retorted Miles pithily. 
" And I was rather silly to say what I did say." 
" V^ery silly indeed." He kissed her. " Unsay it." 
" Not altogether. That would be disrespectful to 
father's memory. But I'll unsay some of it." 
" That's better than nothing. Well ? " 
" If you 6 n't find ^Mam'zel Clarice in a 3^ear I'll 
marry you. " 

Miles kissed her again. " I shall keep you to 
that. You will marry mc when your year of 
mourning is at an end." 



148 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Yes ; I promise that. And Mam'zel ? " 

" I'll do my best to find her meanwhile. But my 
hard work, which makes me so dull a companion ? " 

" Go on with it, for my sake," said Melicent softly. 
" You aren't so very dull after all." 

" Good girl ! " Miles arose and stretched his tall 
figure to its greatest height. " I'm glad we have 
arrived at a compromise. And, to reward you for 
being more sensible, I'll tell you some pleasant 
news." 

" About Mam'zel Clarice ? " 

" That wouldn't be pleasant. No ; about Toby." 

" And Sylvia ? " Melicent grew excited. 

" Well, what concerns the one concerns the other. 
It seems that Toby has an uncle, who has discovered 
him, and wants to help him. This uncle is in the 
Norway trade and has made a heap of money out 
of wood, or turpentine, or something of that sort. 
He proposes to adopt Toby as his heir, if he marries 
with the approval of the aforesaid uncle," said Miles, 
speaking in quite a legal way. j 

" Oh, I'm sure he will approve of Sylvia." 

" So Toby thinks, and so do I. But things are not 
yet arranged, so don't say anything to Sylvia in the 
meantime. She deserves some kind of punishment 
for not having written, to you." 

" It's that horrid mother of hers. I don't blame 
Sylvia. Besides, she wrote to me immediately after 
father's death. I am fond of Sylvia." 

" So is Toby, and I think if his choice satisfies this 
wealthy uncle, as I believe it will, that Lady Gibson 
will be only too glad to accept him as a son-in-law." 

At this moment Ralph entered the room. He 
was in evening dress, and looked quite smart. In- 
deed, since Edgar's death the surviving brother had 
begun to pay much more attention to his clothes and 
general appearance. He rubbed his hands, cast 



SMALL NOTHINGS. 149 

a keen glance at the lovers and advanced towards 
the fire. 

" I'm horribly cold and feel rather miserable," he 
said, with a shiver. 

" That is what j\Ielicent has been saying," re- 
marked Darch lightly, 

" Cold, with this splendid fire." Ralph spread 
out his hands to warm them. 

" No ; I said I felt miserable," observed the girl. 
" Things are so dull here that I don't know what to 
do with myself." 

" You are hipped, and no wonder," said her uncle, 
hunkering down to bring his large hands closer to the 
blaze. " But it's your own fault, Meliccnt. WTiy 
do you stay here when Lady Gibson is ready to 
receive you ? ' ' 

" Is she, uncle ? " 

" Yes. Don't you remember how you wished to 
go to town immediately before your father's death ? 
I told you that I would speak to Lady Gibson. I 
did when I was in London, and she says she will only 
be too pleased if you will pay her a visit. You had 
to postpone that visit for a few weeks on account 
of what has happened, but why not pay it now ? " 

" I think I will. Not that I like that horrid Lady 
Gibson, but I am fond of Sylvia. 

" I'm fond of her also," said Hurst, unexpectedly. 

" Oh, you always were," said his niece easily. 
" And she likes you." 

" But I am talking seriously. I love Sylvia." 

" Uncle ! " Melicent stared at him and Miles 
stared also. 

Hurst rose to shake himself like a big Newfound- 
land dog and laughed in his old jovial manner. 
" WTiy should you both look so surprised ? " he 
said, raising his thick eyebrows. " It was my 
loyalty to Edgar that made me hold my tongue. 



150 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

But I loved Sylvia from the first moment I saw her, 
and wished very much to marry her. In spite of 
my white hair I am only fifty-one, not too old to 
make her my wife, I hope." 

" But she loves Toby," cried Melicent, who never 
thought that this elderly man possessed a vein of 
romance. 

" Well, she can't marry Toby. He's got no 
money." 

" You aren't very rich either, uncle. At least 
not rich enough to satisfy Lady Gibson." 

Ralph cast such a black look on his niece that 
Miles, who was watching him, started with amaze- 
ment. It suddenly occurred to him that the man's 
nature was by no means so jovial as it seemed 
to be. Melicent's remark touched him nearly, and 
he winced. A moment later the black look dis- 
appeared and the jovial laugh rang out. But 
now, to ■ Miles' s ears, the laughter did not ring 
so true. The mask — if it was a mask — ^had slipped, 
and Darch had caught a glimpse of something he 
did not like. Hurst saw his amazed face and at 
once apologised. " Excuse my scowling," he said 
amiably, " but Melicent's remark made me remember 
how difficult Lady Gibson is to deal with. I had 
forgotten her for the moment. As to my not being 
rich, that is quite true ; but with what I have 
myself from my mother, and this annuity coming 
from my brother, I shall have at least seven hundred 
a year. That mightn't satisfy Lady Gibson, but it 
may Sylvia." 

" Only marriage with Toby will satisfy Sylvia," 
said Melicent positively. 

" But he has no money, as I said before. Seven 
hundred a year is better than what Smith can offer." 

" Toby will have plenty of money soon," said 
Miles, determined to urge his friend's case. " I am 



SMALL NOTHINGS. 151 

not breaking any confidence in telling you that 
Toby has found a rich uncle who intends to make 
him his heir." 

" Oh ! " Hurst looked blank at this, and it was 
only with an effort that he prevented the black look 
from again overspreading his face. " That's bad 
news for me. Does Lady Gibson know ? " 

" No ; and Toby doesn't intend to tell her just 
yet." 

" Well, then, IMelicent, when you go to town don't 
you tell Lady Gibson the amount of my money. 
Say nothing about 3^our father's will, or about nty 
other income. In this way Lady Gibson, knowing 
nothing of m}- position nor the true position of Smith, 
will be able to choose between us without bias." 

" I shall not say anything, uncle. But if slic 
thinks 3'ou are poor, and as she knows that Toby is 
poor, she'll make Sylvia marry some one else." 

" I think I can prevent that," retorted Ralph, 
setting his jaw. " Lady Gibson is clever, but she 
can be managed by one who knows her weak points." 

" \\liat are they ? " inquired Miles, wondering at 
this confidence. " I have never seen any." 

" You will after I have spoken to her," said Ralph 
grimly. " And, meanwhile, I have your promise to 
say nothing, Meliccnt." 

" You have my promise," she answered ; " and I 
shall be glad to get away from Grenacer for a time." 

" Stay away as long as you like," said Ralph, in 
quite his old genial manner, which now, in some 
vague way, Darch mistrusted. " Mrs. Frint can 
look after things here as usual, and I'll run up to 
town occasionally. Now that I am your guardian, 
Meliccnt, and have to go out into the world, you can 
see that I am getting quite smart in my looks." He 
laughed and turned round. " I intend to give up 
my library for the time being, and to go a-wooing, 



152 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

like the frog in the song. First your wedding, and 
then mine — that is, if you ever intend to marry Miles, 
seeing what a silly vow you made." 

" I have changed my mind about the vow," said 
]\Ielicent, colouring and slipping her hand into that 
of Darch. " There seems to be no chance of Mam'zcl 
being discovered, so I have promised to marry Miles 
in a year." 

Ralph frowned. " When you make a solemn vow 
you shouldn't break it, child. I am glad, all the 
same, that you have reconsidered the matter. A 
year," he nursed his chin in his hand musingly, 
" well, much may happen in a year." 

" What do you mean ? " demanded the barrister 
sharply, for he did not like the tone in which this 
was said. 

" I mean that Sylvia and I may be married before 
the year is out," laughed Hurst, " unless, of course, 
there is more trouble to come from Hecate. The 
hand is still closed, remember." 

" Such rubbish," said Darch rouglily, while 
Llelicent shivered. 

" Of course it is. No sensible person believes the 
story save this foolish girl who told it." 

" Well, trouble did come after the hand was closed, 
Uncle Ralph." 

" Oh, that was a mere coincidence. Or, perhaps, 
Jupp's theory is correct." 

" Wliat is it ? " asked the girl curiously. 

" Never mind. It doesn't matter. But if you 
are so afraid of this statue, Melicent, and it infects 
you with fear, as it seems to do, why not have it 
taken away and melted down ? " 

" No ! No ! No ! " cried Melicent forcibly. 
" That would do away with the luck of the Hursts." 

" And a good thing, too, if the luck is to be what 
it has been lately," said Hurst, with a ponderous 



SMALL NOTHINGS. 153 

shrug. " However, have it your own way. You 
are the mistress here, or you will be in two months. 
But I advise the melting down of that leaden 
monstrosity, if only to remove your obsession." 

" I think it would be a good thing to do," urged 
Miles, agreeing with the man. " It's not a pretty 
object, Melicent, and its influence is bad." 

" Bad or good, I intend to leave it alone," she said 
firmly. " I believe that some day the hand will 
open and that all will be well." 

" BuL the hand is still closed," said Ralph, " and 
if misfortune comes " 

" Miles will help me to face it," finished Melicent, 
" and prevent it." 

" He couldn't do that in the past," said Ralph 
significantly, " and by the past we must judge the 
future." 



CHAPTER XII. 

toby's uncle. 

Two or three days later I^Ielicent went up to 
London, having received in the meantime 
a gushing letter from Lady Gibson, saying 
how delighted she would be to see her. The girl 
was glad to leave behind the gloomy house and its 
gloomy inhabitants, for the shadow resting on the 
Hall was darker than ever. Ralph, saying that he 
would follow her at the end of the week, and bring 
her back if she was then ready to return, placed her 
in Darch's charge and told her to enjoy herself. 
He vvas thoroughly amiable, and kindly attentive 
to his niece, as he always was. Nevertheless, 
Miles could not forget those dark looks in the 
drawing-room, nor the significant remark which 
closed the conversation. Somehow, and without 
any apparent reason, he mistrusted the big man, 
and longed to have an opportunity of confiding his 
feeling to Toby. But for the last few days Toby 
had been in London, attending to his uncle in a 
most diplomatic manner. 

Miles drove with Melicent in a taxi to Lady 
Gibson's flat, which was in Kensington, and gave 
her into the hands of that frivolous individual. 
She wished the young man to remain and talk over 
the Squire's death, but Darch, who had no great love 

154 



TOBY'S UNCLE. 155 

for her, excused himself. He did not even care for 
Melicent to be with her, and would have objected 
to the visit being paid but for the presence of Sylvia. 
Wliile Lady Gibson took Melicent to her room and 
helped her to remove her things, Sj/lvia seized the 
opportunity of speaking to the barrister. With a 
glance at the drawing-room door she placed a warning 
finger on her lips and spoke to him softly. 

" I have seen Toby," she said, blushing, " and we 
want you to help us." 

" Of course Til help you. Wliat is it ? " 

" Hush, not so loud. Mother is so suspicious. 
Now that poor Mr. Hurst is dead she wants me to 
marry an old Greek merchant who has plenty of 
money." 

" And you ? " Miles was openly shocked at this 
new scheme of the unscrupulous, fortune-hunting 
mother. 

" I am going to stick to Toby. I did my best to 
obey mother with regard to poor Mr. Hurst, but now 
I can't bring myself to sacrifice my life to her any 
longer." 

" I quite approve, if my approval is worth 
anything." 

" Oh, it is. Toby and I require your friendship, 
and, what is more, we require a proof of it." 

" Granted. Well ? " 

" I want you to ask Melicent and me to see your 
chambers in three days, during which time Toby 
will see you to arrange a meeting between us. 
Mother will never suspect anything, and then we can 
talk over things." 

Miles nodded. " I'll do what you ask with 
pleasure. Miss Gibson." 

" Sylvia ; you used to call me Sylvia." 

" When you were engaged to my deceased father- 
in-law that was to be. Somehow, through Melicent, 



156 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

I felt I had the right, as we were to be all one family. 
You understand ? " 

" Yes. But you can call me Sylvia still," she 
blushed again. 

" Very well, S3dvia. Go on." 

" I have said all that I wanted to say," she 
answered, " except that Toby is in London with 
his uncle, and wants me to meet him. I don't 
know why," Sylvia shook her head, looking 
puzzled, " as I don't think his uncle is rich enough 
to do anything for us. All the Smiths are so 
poor." 

" Oh, I expect Toby wants 3''ou to know his 
family. First this uncle, and then his father and 
mother and sisters. I tell you, what Sylvia, I'll 
give you and Tob3% the uncle and Melicent, a little 
luncheon in some Fleet Street restaurant. My 
chambers are in the Temple, you know." 

Sylvia clapped her hands. " Oh, that will be 
delightful." 

" What will be delightful ? " Lady Gibson, followed 
by Melicent, popped into the room unexpectedly. 
" What is delightful ? " she asked, putting up her 
lorgnette with a suspicious look, for she knew that 
Darch was a friend of Toby's. 

" Mr. Darch wants Melicent to come to luncheon 
and visit his chambers the day after to-morrow, and 
invites me to come also, mother." 

" The day after to-morrow. Whsd are my engage- 
ments? " said Lady Gibson, to the dismay of the 
three, and went to an escritoire to take a little red 
book out of the drawer. " M'm ! m'm ! " she said 
pensively running her eye over the pages, "I'm 
afraid I can't accept, Mr. Darch." 

" Oh, Lady Gibson," cried Melicent, coming to the 
rescue, " you won't stop Sylvia from coming with 
me. I should so hate to go alone. There will only 



TOBY'S UNCLE. I57 

be our three selves," ended Melicent, ignorant that 
Toby intended to be of the party. 

" But your uncle is coming up to town the day 
after to-morrow," said Lady Gibson. " He wants 
to see me particularly, and of course will want to 
see you." 

" He sees enough of me," said Miss Hurst 
ungratefully. " Do consent to let Sylvia come 
with me." 

Lady Gibson did not wish to make herself dis- 
agreeable to Melicent now that the girl had her 
father's money and the Hall. She might be, and 
probably would be, a useful friend. " Well, I can't 
resist your pleading, dear," she said, with a gracious 
smile. " Sylvia shall go. But you will excuse me 
from coming, Mr. Darch. I have to remain here to 
see what Mr. Hurst wants." 

" I am sorry you can't come," said Miles gravely, 
and rather hypocritically ; " but duty, of course, 
comes before pleasure." 

"I'm a martyr to duty," sighed Lady Gibson. 
" Au re voir for the present. Do come and see me 
sometimes. But I hope," up went the lorgnette 
again, and she again looked suspicious, " that 
you have not invited that annoying Dr. Smith to 
luncheon ? " 

" No," said Darch, in perfect good faith, " I have 
not invited him," and having scored a point in 
Sylvia's favour, he took his departure. 

That same day, believing that all was fair in love 
and war, he telephoned to the hotel where his friend 
was staying with the newly-found uncle. In answer 
to the request to call, Toby came round straight away, 
bubbling over with spirits, and perfectly certain that 
his troubles and Sylvia's troubles would shortly be 
at an end. He explained that his Uncle George 
wished him to marry, and would supply him with 



158 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

the means of marrying, if lie approved of the future 
Mrs. Horace Smith. He mentioned also that his 
uncle was following him to Darch's chambers, 
having overheard the telephone message. It ap- 
peared that he wished to see what kind of a bosom 
friend his nephew had, 

" I hope he'll approve," said Miles, smiling, " of 
me and Sylvia. By the way, she said that I could 
call her Sylvia. Your uncle seems to be suspicious, 
Toby." 

" Well, he's rather eccentric, because he was jilted 
by a girl who married a rackety chap. If Sylvia 
was a flirt and you an idler, uncle wouldn't give me a 
sixpence. But as she's an angel, and you are an old 
wiseacre, I expect he'll be quite satisfied and come 
down with the dust. What do j-ou wish to see me 
about, Miles ? " 

" In the first place, I wish you to come to lun- 
cheon the day after to-morrow at two o'clock 
Melicent is coming and — Sylvia." 

" Not Lady Gibson ? " 

" No ! set your mind at rest. I managed to 
prevent her coming by saying that I had not 
invited j^ou. And when I said that," added Darch 
laughing, " I really had not invited you, Toby, as 
you know." 

" Thanks ever so much, old man." Smith shook 
hands warmly. " Can I bring my uncle ? It will 
be a good chance for him to meet Sylvia." 

" I'll ask your uncle to join us when he comes in." 

" Good ! And your second object in wishing to 
see me ? " 

" Ah, that is more serious. You have been away 
attending to this uncle of yours, Toby, and I have 
not had a chance of asking you a question." 

" Ask it now." 

" \^aiat do you think of Ralph Hurst ? " 



TOBY'S UNCLE. 159 

Toby stared at his friend in amazement. " Wliy, 
we've settled our mutual opinion of him long ago, 
Miles. He's a good-hearted, decent old book- 
worm." 

Darch nodded. " So I thought ; so you thought. 
But I am inclined to change my opinion, and wonder 
if he isn't a wolf in sheep's clothing." 

" WTiy should you think that ? " Smith was 
more amazed than ever. 

Darch rapidly told him of the conversation in the 
drawing-room, of the dark looks cast at Mclicent, 
and mentioned the significant remark about the 
future being judged by the past, relative to 
looking after ]\Ielicent. " It appears to me now 
that Hurst has been wearing a mask, and is by 
no means the harmless old student we believed him 
to be." 

" I should think not," cried Toby, intensely angr^/ 
that the old man should dare to think of Sylvia, for 
Miles had repeated Hurst's confession. " How dare 
an old buffer like that think Sylvia would look at 
him ? " 

" Now that his brother is out of the way, he may 
think that he has a chance." 

" Then he hasn't ; and " — struck by a sudden 
thought he stared at his friend, horrified — " I say. 
Miles, you surely don't think that Ralph has put 
the Squire out of the way so as to make love to 
Sylvia ? " 

" Oh, no, no ; I don't think he is so bad as that," 
said Darch hastily. " But he lias been shut up for 
years with his books, and now that his passions are 
aroused by Sylvia's beauty he v/ants to go out and 
enjoy himself. His money is limited, and he v/ants 
all he can get to marry Sylvia, so — well, I'm not at 
all easy in my mind regarding his treatment of 
Melicent." 



i6o THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Has he behaved badly to her ? " 

" Not so far. But the looks he cast on her were 
a revelation." 

" You're runnmg your head against a stone wall, 
my son," said the doctor roughly. " Hurst may 
be inclined to play the fool in his old age, but I 
don't think he'd harm Melicent. He's too fond 
of her." 

" His looks didn't show that. Anyhow, I intend 
to keep my eye on him." 

" Do so ; but it's all moonshine. There's nothing 
wrong with the old buffer save his cheek in running 
after Sylvia." 

" That's bad enough," said Miles, thinking that 
perhaps, after all, his friend was right and that he 
was making something out of nothing ; " and he'll 
get the mother on his side." 

" Not unless he can show a good banking 
account." 

" Hum ! " said Miles, getting alarmed again ; 
" that's what I'm afraid of. However, he's treating 
Melicent all right just now, so perhaps I am talking 
nonsense." 

" I am sure you are," said the doctor emphatically, 
then, as a knock came to the door, he jumped up 
from his chair, " that's Uncle George." 

Uncle George, introduced by the small office boy, 
proved to be a cheerful, white-haired ancient, very 
shabbily dressed. No one would have taken him 
to be worth sixpence, yet Toby assured his friend 
in a whisper that this poverty-struck looking relative 
could sign his name to a cheque for many thousands. 
Uncle George, who seemed to be decidedly eccentric, 
stared long and hard at Darch, then offered him his 
hand again. 

" You'll do," he said in a thin, piping voice. 
" You look sensible, and likely enough will be a good 



TOBY'S UNCLE. i6i 

friend to Horace here. I don't want my money to 
go to a spendthrift, Mr. Darch, and a man is known 
by his friends." 

" Toby isn't a spendthrift, neither am I, Mr. 
Smith." 

" Toby ! Oh, you mean Horace. Well, I'm glad 
to hear it. I've worked hard for my money, and 
wish to leave it to a safe person. Horace's father, 
my brother, is too speculative for my taste, and if 
I left it to him he'd soon make ducks and drakes 
of it." 

" I never speculate," said Toby virtuously. 

"I'll put a clause in my will that you'll lose 
my money if you do," said the ancient in his 
piping voice, which was firm enough for all its 
thinness. " Now about this marriage, IMr. Darch. 
I've heard Horace's story, but I want to hear 
yours." 

" It's the same as Toby's," replied the barrister. 

" Never mind ; I want to hear your version." 

" Miss Gibson is a charming and beautiful young 
lady, and is the dearest friend of the girl I am going 
to marry." 

" But is she sensible ? " 

" Very ; and what is more, she is self-denying. 
To save her mother from ruin she was prepared to 
marry an old man who " 

" Yes ! Yes ! I heard all about the murder. 
Horrid ! " Uncle George made a grimace. " I don't 
care for such things, which, after all, aren't my 
business. I want to get Horace a good wife, who 
won't squander my money." 

" Miss Gibson won't," Darch assured him. " She's 
as sensible as Toby, and that is saying a good deal, 
for he's a Socrates for wisdom." 

" You make me blush," murmured Toby with 
a grin. 

L 



i62 [THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Well, well, that's good hearing, Mr. Darch. But 
the mother " ^ 

" She wants her daughter to marry money. That s 
the difficulty." 

" Not with Toby, as you call Horace. When I die 
he'll have five thousand a year, and while I live he'll 
have two thousand when he marries. I made the 
money in the Norway trade, and it's honestly come 
by. But this mother need not know anything about 
the money. I told Horace not to tell her." 

" And that's the difficulty," said Smith dismally. 
" Lady Gibson will never let Sylvia marry me 
thinking that I am poor, which I am." 

" Will Sylvia marry you if you are poor ? " 

" Yes, Uncle George, to-morrow," said Toby 
promptly. 

" Good ; she's a sensible girl," the ancient chuckled. 
" We'll have a little plot, Horace, to make sure that 
she is sensible. Don't tell her that I am rich. I'm 
sure I don't look it," he added, glancing down at his 
shabby clothing. " But introduce her to me, and 
let her think that I am a poor relative. Upon the 
way she treats me will depend my consent to the 
marriage." 

" But Lady Gibson ? " 

" She shan't know anything. If the girl marries 
you the mother will believe that she — the mother, 
I mean — is ruined. Then we can tell her the truth, 
after making sure that the girl really loves you." 

" It will have to be a runaway match, then," said 
Toby ruefully. 

" And why not ? " demanded the unprincipled old 
man. " You've got no romance about you, boy. But 
not a word of the money to the mother or to the 
daughter, remember. Let me manage things in my 
own way. Now then, how can I meet the girl and 
test her," 



TOBY'S UNCLE. 163 

" Come with Toby here the day after to-morrow 
at two o'clock, Mr. Smith. Miss Hurst, to whom 
I am engaged, and Miss Gibson are coming to 
luncheon." 

"Good ! Ah, you're a sensible chap ! I'm glad 
Horace has such a friend. And now we'll go, 
Mr. Darch. I've tickets for a music-hall. They're 
paid for and must be used. It doesn't do to 
waste money." 

Toby winked at Darch and strode after his eccen- 
tric relative, who trotted away chuckling at the 
little plot he had made. Miles was glad to think 
that things were going smoothly with Toby, and 
chuckled to himself to think how enraged Lady 
Gibson would be on hearing of a runaway marriage 
and how amazed when the truth came to light. He 
laughed aloud at the idea, and Toby's peculiar 
wooing, superintended by the queer old man, 
drove all thoughts of Ralph's possible wickedness 
out of his head. This was a good thing, for the 
idea of the man being evil was becoming an obses- 
sion. Yet, on the face of it. Miles had no reason 
to believe Ralph other than what he appeared to 
be, and what he always was, during his brother's 
lifetime. 

With the day came the hour, and with the hour 
came two beautifully-dressed damsels to the some- 
what dingy chambers of the barrister. Uncle George 
and the obedient Toby had already arrived, and 
were waiting impatiently for the ad\ent of beauty. 
Sylvia, warned beforehand that the uncle was a most 
eccentric person, as poor as a church-mouse and as 
obstinate as a mule, was somewhat nervous. She 
loved Toby so much that she was anxious to stand 
well with his relatives, however poor and disagree- 
able they were. But, to her surprise, she found 
Uncle George anything but disagreeable, although 



i64 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

she firmly believed, from what Toby had told her 
and from the look of his clothes, that he had no 
money. The old merchant was most kind and 
courtly in every way, so that both the girls took 
quite a fancy to him. He was full of humour, and had 
quite the manner of the old school of politeness, in 
spite of his plebeian name. By the time they reached 
the restaurant and were seated at a retiring table, 
in a snug corner, Sylvia and Melicent were getting 
on capitally with the old gentleman. But it was 
chiefly to Miss Gibson that he paid attention, which, 
Melicent thought, was natural enough under the 
circumstances. It was a merry luncheon party, for 
the old gentleman made many jokes and kept 
every one laughing. At times Melicent felt that 
she was acting wrongly in attending such a party 
and in being amused, seeing that her father had 
been dead for such a short time ; but she knew 
that a mournful seclusion would only make her 
brood and worry herself into an illness, therefore 
stilled her conscience and enjoyed herself. Also 
she was reassured by Darch's glances and the 
pressure of his hand — under the table. He was 
delighted to see that she Vv^as acting reasonably. 
All the same Melicent was very quiet during the 
meal, which, after all, was given for the benefit 
of Sylvia and Toby, so that their course of love 
might run smoothly. 

" Fond of money ? " asked Uncle George, pounc- 
ing on Sylvia, for he was always on the watch for 
testing her. 

" I am fond of what money can buy," she replied. 

" A sensible answer, a very sensible answer," 
chuckled the ancient ; " and I suppose you want to 
get all that money can buy ? " 

" I have got what money can't buy," said Sylvia, 
with a glance at Toby, " and that is love." 



TOBY'S UNCLE. 165 

" My nephew. But he's poor, you know. A 
poor struggling doctor." 

" I can struggle with him." 

" And you would ? " he looked at her keenly. 

" Yes ; of course there are difficulties." Sylvia 
sighed. 

" Is Constantine Tahinos one of the difficulties ? " 

As this was the name of the Greek merchant 
whom Lady Gibson was now stalking, Sylvia 
looked surprised, and blushed. " Do you know 
him ? " 

" Oh, yes ! he's a friend of mine. I understood 
him to say that he admired a certain Miss Gibson 
greatly. That is why I was so anxious to meet you. 
Of course Mr. Tahinos is very rich." 

Sylvia looked haughty. " Wliat is that to me ? " 

" Uncle," broke in Tob57' anxiousl3^ 

" Let me be, boy. I want to know if Miss Gibson 
— well, well, we'll say no more about it. Only I am 
too poor to afford a very handsome wedding present 
to Tahinos." 

" Is he going to be married ? " asked Darch, 
sipping his coffee. 

" Miss Gibson can answer that." 

" Miss Gibson can't," said Sylvia, with a height- 
ened colour. " Why not talk of my marriage to 
Toby, Mr. Smith. It is a much more agreeable 
subject." 

" You really think so ; you really think so ? " 

" Yes ! " Sylvia was annoyed by the old man's 
persistence, yet could not help smiling at the 
humorous twinkle in his eye. 

With the monosyllable Uncle George seemed to 
be contented, and changed the subject with great 
tact. For the rest of the time everything went 
very well, and then the two girls took their depar- 
ture, as they had some shopping to do. Uncle 



i66 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

George saw them depart, then seized his nephew's 
hand. 

" Marry her, my boy ; marry her. She's a sensible 
girl. Marry her." 

All this was very agreeable and very wisely settled, 
for Sylvia did seem inclined to refuse further sacri- 
fice for her mother's selfish sake and accept the poor 
doctor whom she truly loved. And Uncle George, 
who had quite fallen in love with her, chuckled, with 
many rubbings of his hands, when he thought of the 
great surprise that was in store for her, and for her 
mother also, little as that mother deserved it. But 
here Fate stepped in to o^'erturn all these agreeable 
arrangements. 

The two girls made their purchases and then re- 
turned to the Kensington fiat to find that Mr. Hurst 
had come and gone. They were glad of this, as 
neither one of them wished to see him particularly, 
pleasant as he was. Sylvia wished to talk about 
Toby and his delightfully eccentric uncle to Melicent, 
although she wondered how she could manage to do 
this with her mother at her elbow. Lady Gibson, 
however, had retired to her room, and instead of 
coming out to attend to her guest, sent for her 
daughter. For quite an hour the two were together 
and Melicent was growing very tired of her own 
society, when Sylvia returned. 

But how changed she was. Toby's wooing had 
flushed her face and had made her eyes as bright as 
stars, while she laughed and talked gaily. Now, in 
place of her happy companion, Melicent saw the 
Sylvia of the old days, white and silent, statuesque 
and scornful. Putting her questions aside. Miss 
Gibson went to the escritoire and wrote a short letter. 
This she directed and stamped, then summoned the 
maidservant to take it to the post. Afterwards 
she turned to her astonished friend. 



TOBY'S UNCLE. 167 

" We must have dinner alone, " she said. " Mother 
is unwell and has gone to bed. You don't mind, 
do you ? " 

" I'm glad. We can talk about Toby undisturbed." 

" I shall never talk of Toby again. I shall never 
marry him." 

" Sylvia ! " Melicent stared with her mouth open. 

" I have dismissed Toby in that letter and I am to 
marry your Uncle Ralph." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

DOUBTS. 

WHILE absent in London attending to the 
demands of his wealthy relative, Toby 
had left a locum tenens behind to look 
after his Grenacer practice. And as Uncle George 
agreed to pay the substitute, the young doctor was 
in no hurry to return. The more so as he had 
chances of seeing Sylvia in town which were wanting 
in the country. Therefore Miles was left entirely 
to his own company, and this especially since Melicent 
went to stay v/ith Lady Gibson. During this isolation 
he worked hard at his law-books and briefs, going to 
the metropolis and returning with due regularity. 
Sometimes he went to Kensington to see the girl, 
and noticed that she looked worried and pale. The 
reason of this she refused to tell him. 

The tiTith was that after telling Melicent of her 
intention to throw over Smith and marry Ralph, 
Sylvia insisted that her friend should say nothing to 
Miles of her determination. The secret preyed on 
Melicent 's mind, as she could not understand the 
reason of this sudden change when everything had 
seemed to be going in Toby's favour at the luncheon. 
Darch also noted that Sylvia had returned to her 
old silent attitude, but did not connect that with 
Melicent 's sick looks. He thought that Lady Gibson 

l68 



DOUBTS. 169 

was worrying both the girls, and therefore urged 
MeHcent to return to Grenacer. This the girl was 
unwilling to do. Since S34via had announced her 
intention to marry Ralph, his niece began to doubt 
her uncle. No man, as she thought, and said, could 
be really good if he forced Sylvia into a marriage 
against her wishes. This, as it plainly appeared, 
was what Ralph was doing, with the countenance of 
Lady Gibson. Sylvia made no explanation. 

Miles was puzzled to account for these things, but 
his bewilderment was dispersed one morning by the 
unexpected appearance of Toby. For the last few 
daj's the young man had been in Paris, since his 
uncle had the whim to go there immediately after 
the luncheon. It was part of his plan, he said, to see 
if Sjdvia would remain true to his nephew while they 
were parted. As he had seen Sylvia and knew how 
deeply she was attached to Toby, this experiment 
seemed to be wholly unnecessary, but Uncle George 
was eccentric, and his eccentricity had to be 
humoured. Toby hated to leave London when 
things were going so well with him and S34via, but 
he was forced to obey his rich relation, who had 
everything to do with the final adjustment of things. 
In a few days Toby returned, and at his hotel where 
he stayed with Uncle George, found the letter which 
Sylvia had written. The reading of it upset him 
altogether, and he rushed away immediately to see 
his friend and to consult him as to the meaning of 
this thunderbolt from the blue. 

Miles was surprised when Toby entered like a 
whirlwind and, without a word, placed the letter 
before him. He inquired anxiously what was the 
matter, but the doctor merely pointed to the letter 
in silence, then flung himself into a chair to cover 
his face with his hands. Considerably puzzled by 
all this pantomime Miles sought the solution in 



170 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

the epistle, and found it there with a vengeance. 
Sylvia wrote saying that, by the wish of her mother, 
she intended to receive the addresses of Ralph Hurst, 
and that, although she loved Toby, and would always 
love him, there was no help for it but to throw him 
over in Hurst's favour. Here the letter ended, but 
a postscript saying that the change of mind was not 
due to the money question, showed how anxious the 
writer was to stand well with the man she was — on 
the face of it — treating so badly. Miles read this 
letter once ; he read it twice ; he read it three times, 
and then sat back in his chair to wonder what it all 
meant. He asked this question of Toby, who 
groaned. 

" That is what I have come to ask you," said 
Toby wretchedly. " I think Sylvia must be out 
of her mind to blow hot and cold in this way. At 
that luncheon you gave she told me positively that 
she did not intend to sacrifice herself any more over 
the money question with regard to her mother. Yet 
she now — she now " — ^the worried young man choked 
and pointed to the letter, "she now writes like 
that," he finished with a gasp. 

" It's not the money question this time," com- 
mented Miles, knitting his brows and reflecting ; 
" the postscript shows that." 

" But what other reason can there be ? We know 
that all along Lady Gibson has wanted Sylvia to 
marry a rich man for her to sponge on. Failing the 
Squire, who is dead, Lady Gibson wants Hurst as 
her son-in-law." 

" Hurst is not rich." 

" She doesn't know that. You told me yourself 
that Hurst asked Melicent not to say anything about 
the will and his private income." 

" I did," assented Miles, nodding. " All the 
same, Lady Gibson must know that Melicent in- 



DOUBTS. 171 

herits the Squire's property, and cannot think that 
Hurst has benefited sufficiently largely by the will 
to make him a good match for her daughter. That 
is, of course, seeing what large ideas of money Lady 
Gibson has. Then there is this Greek merchant, 
Constantine Tahinos, of whom your uncle spoke. 
He is a millionaire, as I have been making inquiries, 
and it seems that he admires Sylvia excessively. 
Lady Gibson would certainly not fish for a sprat 
when she could fish for a whale, and she would prefer 
Tahinos to Hurst a thousand times if it were a mere 
question of money." 

Toby nodded and leaned forward to rest his 
elbows on his knees and his chin in the cup of his 
hands. " I suppose that's true. But what other 
reason can there be ?" 

" You must ask Hurst that," interrupted Miles, 
quietly but meaningh'. 

" Hurst ! " Toby sat up and stared. 

" Yes ! I told you that I mistrusted the man. 
The postscript to this letter makes me mistrust him 
more than ever. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing." 

" But I don't see " 

" I am surprised at that," said Darch, interrupting 
him again. " Sylvia says plainly in the postscript 
that her change of mind is not due to the 
money question. Therefore, it must be due to some- 
thing else." 

" True. Well ? " 

" Well, we know that Sylvia loves you, and that 
only for the sake of her mother would she jilt you 
in favour of Ralph. He, if you remember, was to 
pay her a visit while the girls were at lunch with us. 
Depend upon it, he did so, and what he said to Lady 
Gibson was told to Sylvia when she returned home. 
Hence this letter." 

" Bui what could Hurst have said to Lady Gibson 



172 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

to make her agree to Sylvia's marriage with him 
rather than with Tahinos ? " 

"Ah, that's what we've got to find out ! In my 
opinion it is a case of sheer blackmail." 

" Blackmail ? " 

" Toby, do pull yourself together and don't go on 
repeating m}'' words like a cuckoo. Of course it's 
blackmail. Hurst knows something about Lady 
Gibson which has forced her to consent to this rotten 
marriage." 

" I see." Smith rose and began to pace the room 
excitedly. " Shall I go to Lady Gibson or to Sylvia 
and ask what it is ? " 

" They would both refuse to receive you. The 
mother because she dare not say what means Hurst 
used to coerce her, and the daughter because she has 
to respect her mother's secret, for which she is paying 
so dear." 

" What's to be done ? " 

" Nothing more than I am already doing. Hurst 
must be watched, and I am watching him on JMeli- 
cent's behalf. You must join with me in watching 
him for Sylvia's sake." 

" You really think that he is a blackguard ? " 

" I was inclined to think so before, when he 
dropped the mask and showed his real face. I am 
still more inclined to believe so now, when I guess 
that he has used threats to compel Lady Gibson to 
agree to the marriage. If it were the old question 
of money it wouldn't matter. But it isn't that." 

" No, it isn't that," said Smith mechanically. 
" Do you think that I could induce Sylvia to elope 
with me ? " 

" Not while her mother is in Hurst's power. What 
the secret is which gives this man such a hold over 
Lady Gibson I don't know. But I am confident 
that there is a secret, and a pretty dangerous one, 



'" DOUBTS. 173 

else Lady Gibson would not have agreed to the 
marriage so readily when there was a chance of trap- 
ping Tahinos. We must learn that secret and save 
Lady Gibson. Then, out of gratitude, money or no 
money, she will agree to your becoming the husband 
of her daughter." 

" But how are we to learn the secret ? " 

" I can't say at present. But you must return 
to Grenacer and help me to watch Hurst. In some 
way or another he may give himself awa}^ I only 
hope that Lady Gibson will keep Melicent with her, 
for I am afraid there is danger in that dear girl going 
back to the Hall." 

" Why ? " 

" How stupid you are, Toby," said Darch im- 
patiently. " Melicent has the property now, but if 
anything happens to her Ralph gets it. And Ralph 
wants it so as to be rich when he marries Sylvia, 
which he certainly will do unless you and I can clip 
his claws." 

" We don't know anything about his claws." 

" Agreed ; they are sheathed in velvet just now. 
But he has shown them to Lady Gibson, and if we 
watch he may show them to us. Then we sliall know 
what to do. Understand ? " 

"Oh, yes ! and I am of 5^our opinion. Miles. Yet 
we have nothing substantial to urge against Hurst. 
There is no evidence " 

" We must find evidence. I tell you, Tob3% I 
don't feel easy in my mind over Melicent 's position 
with that man. I only hope she'll stay where she 
is." 

But the hope was vain, and Darcli learned that it 
was very speedily. He went on talking to Toby 
and suggesting schemes to counter-plot Ralph when 
Melicent made her appearance. It was so sudden 
and so pat to the moment as to be quite dramatic, 



174 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

and both the young men could not conceal their 
astonishment. Miles placed a chair for the girl, 
who looked weary and sick. Toby, as a medical 
man, told her so the moment she sat down. Meli- 
cent nodded. 

"I'm worried about something," she explained. 

" I know," said Darch, leaning against the table ; 
" and you have three times refused to tell me what 
that something is." 

" I can't." Melicent turned away her face. 

" Sylvia doesn't want you to tell, I suppose ? " 

" Sylvia ! " the girl stared and grew crimson. 
" Wliat has she to do with it ? " 

" Everything, as Toby and I know from this 
letter." Miles held it up. 

" Oh ! Is that the letter S3dvia wrote when we 
returned home after the lunch ? " 

" Yes ; and after she saw her mother." 

" Well, she did see her mother before she wrote 
the letter. If that is the letter." 

" It is. Toby has been to Paris with his uncle, and 
only got the letter to-day when he returned. I quite 
understand why you are worried, IMelicent, and also 
why you refuse to tell me the cause of the worry. 
Sylvia is going to marry your uncle, and asked you 
to say nothing about it to me." 

" Yes ! I suppose I can admit that now you know 
so much. Miles." 

" You have not broken any confidence, dear, if 
that's what you mean. But be more explicit for 
Toby's sake. Do 5'ou know why he has been cast 
aside ? " 

" No," said Melicent earnestly ; " really I don't. 
Sylvia said, after she posted that letter, that she was 
going to marry Uncle Ralph, but she refused to say 
why. I suggested that it was because Lady Gibson 
thought m}' uncle was rich, and if that had been 



DOUBTS. 175 

the reason I was going to break my promise to Uncle 
Ralph and explain about the will since I think it's a 
shame that Sylvia should be forced to marry him 
when she loves Toby, But S3'Ivia says it is not 
a question of money." 

" She repeats that in the postscript to this letter," 
remarked Darch, nodding. " I suppose you don't 
know why Lad\^ Gibson agrees to this marriage ? " 

" No ; she says nothing and Sylvia says nothing. 
I'm very miserable, Miles, and I'm not enjoying 
myself a little bit, I'm sure," sobbed Melicent, 
taking out her handkerchief. " I didn't mind in the 
least when Lady Gibson told me this morning that 
I could go home." 

" Oh," Miles glanced at Smith, " she told you 
that ? " 

" Yes; she says she is ill and can't entertain me 
any longer. And she does look ill," asseverated the 
girl tearfully, " staying in bed ever since Uncle 
Ralph came to see her. I'm sure dull as the Hall is, 
I don't mind going back in the least, though I really 
don't like Uncle Ralph as I used to like him. He's 
changed somehow since father died." 

" And you don't like him ? " 

" No." Melicent dried her eyes and twisted her 
handkerchief into a damp ball with a worried look. 
" I dare say it's very silly, Miles, but I'm afraid." 

" Of your uncle ? " 

" Yes ; but don't go on examining me in this horrid 
manner. I can't bear it." 

" I won't, then," said Miks soothingly, for he saw 
that the girl was overwrought, " only tell me if you 
came this morning to ask me to take you back to the 
Hall ? " 

" Yes, I did. To-morrow I am returning by the 
midday train. I know it's taking you away from 
your work, Miles, but I feel that I can't return alone." 



176 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Melicent," said the young man abruptly," don't 
be silly. Late events have got on your nerves. 
Your uncle is all right," Miles swallowed something 
when uttering this lie. " He loves you just the 
same, and all the difference in him since your father 
died is that he dresses in a smarter fashion." 

" No ; he is different all through, and I'm afraid 
of him," insisted Melicent positively. " It's that 
statue, I'm sure. The hand is closed yet, and there 
is more trouble to come." 

" Oh, nonsense," said the doctor bluntly, for he 
saw that his friend was trying to reassure the girl, 
" you are run down. When you come back to 
Grenacer I'll give you a tonic." 

" You're sure that there is nothing to be afraid 
of ? " asked Melicent in a timid tone wholly different 
to her usual speech. 

" No ! " said both young men simultaneously, 
although they were as afraid for the girl as she was 
afraid for herself. 

" Then I shan't worry any more," said Miss Hurst 
cheerfully, rising to go, " and I'll expect you at 
Liverpool Street Station to-morrow, Miles, at a 
quarter to twelve." 

" I'll be there," said Darch, escorting her to the 
door ; and he kissed her in the passage, while Toby 
discreetly remained behind so that this loving 
farewell might not have a spectator. 

Miles returned with a gloomy brow. " You see 
Melicent mistrusts Ralph also, Toby," he remarked, 
frowning. " I wish she wasn't going back." 

" Well, you can keep an eye on her and so can I," 
said the doctor in a comforting tone ; " and ask Mrs. 
Frint to look after her." 

" Yes ; a good suggestion. Whatever Hurst may 
be, Mrs. Frint is a good old soul, and nursed Melicent 
And as she's in the house, she can guard Melicent 



DOUBTS. 177 

from any devil-tricks Hurst may wish to play on 
her." 

" You think, then, that he does intend to play 
tricks ? " 

" I am quite sure that Hurst intends to get the 
property if he can." 

" You have no reason for saying that ; no real 
reason, I mean." 

" Quite so. All the same, I do say it," and there 
was silence for a few moments, which was ultimately 
broken by Toby. 

" I say," observed the doctor, who had been re- 
flecting, " suppose we tell the whole of this story to 
Uncle George. He's a shrewd old chap, and has 
great experience of the shady side of life, with which 
Hurst seems to be associated. And Lady Gibson, 
too, if she has some secret," added Toby. 

Miles approved of the idea immediately. " It's 
worth trying," he said heartily. " I like your uncle, 
Toby, and think he is very sensible and clever." 

" Very well, then, come to dinner this evening. I 
can give you a bed at the hotel. At least Uncle 
George can, as he's paying for everything." 

Darch accepted, as he thought that, for the time 
being he could do more good in town than at Gren- 
acer. He wished to be within call of Melicent in 
case she wanted him unexpectedly, and things just 
now were so queer that it was quite on the cards that 
she might want him. So that evening, after giving 
his small boy half a sovereign to wait until ten 
o'clock in the office and receive any message that 
might possibly come from Melicent, Darch went to 
dine at the Guelph Hotel. Uncle George was glad 
to see him and, after giving him an excellent dinner, 
took him and his nephew to a snug corner of tlie 
smoking-room. Over pipes and cigarettes and coffee 
he demanded an account of everything since Toby 

M 



178 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

had told him that he was to be consulted. The old 
man listened in silence, and nodded when the story 
was concluded. He evidently thought that there 
was something in Darch's doubts. 

" There's nothing appears on the surface to make 
3'ou doubt him, save this coercion of Lady Gibson," 
ipiped the ancient, thoughtfully, " but that alone 
is enough to show that the man is not the clean 
potato. If he is using a secret in the woman's past 
life to force her to obey him, he's a blackguard, if 
ever there was one, and is not likely to stop at 
anything." 

"Do you think he'll hurt Melicent ? " asked Miles 
anxiously. 

" As she comes into her property in two months, 
he might," admitted Uncle George cautiously ; 
" but we'll discuss that way later. First let us talk 
about the secret. Is it possible that Hurst learned 
it from this woman, who murdered the Squire ? " 

" What makes you think that, uncle ? " asked 
Toby in amazement, for he could see no reason for 
the observation. 

" Mam'zel Clarice, according to Hurst, v/as 
connected with the French Secret Service, Horace. 
It's the word secret which makes me connect the 
woman with Lady Gibson. Mam'zel Clarice may 
have learned something about Lady Gibson in Paris, 
which had to do with this secret of her past life." 

" But if Mam'zel knew anything detrimental to 
Lady Gibson," argued Darch, " I am sure she would 
have told the Squire." 

" Perhaps she did on the night that she killed 
him. But as the Squire was going to marry the 
daughter and not the mother, perhaps the secret, 
whatever it was, didn't bother him. Of course," 
added the ancient cautiously, " it's only an idea of 
mine. But if Hurst, as you say, lived so constantly 



DOUBTS. 179 

in Grenacer and never \vent out into the world, 
I don't see what change he wc^ld have of learmng 
things." 

" He didn't cut himself off entirely from the 
world," said Sm'th quickl}^ " I know that he used 
to go to London once a month and sometimes twice, 
for I met him occasionally in the train. Your idea is 
rather far-fetched, uncle." 

"It is; it is, Horace," admitted Uncle George 
readily. " All the same, this woman may have 
known something about Lady Gibson which she 
found out in Paris, and may have told Hurst about 
it. What do you think, Mr. Darch ? " 

" It's a wild idea," said the lawyer thoughtfully. 
" Still, there may be something in it. But as we 
can't find Mam'zel Clarice, I don't see how we 
are to learn anything about the secret — even if she 
knew it." 

" Well, I only suggest the idea, Mr. Darch. I 
may be wrong and I may be right, for my experience 
of life has taught me never to be certain of anything. 
All the same, Mam'zel Clarice is a dangerous woman, 
and Hurst — from your showing — is a dangerous 
man. Birds of a feather, you know " 

" But you don't think that Hurst has anything 
to do with the murder," exclaimed Darch hastily 
" He was in London at the time." 

" I dare say. No, I don't suggest that. But^if 
you can learn anything about Mam'zel Clarice," I 
fancy you'll learn something about Hurst also." 

"I'll see what I can do," said the lawyer, and 
went to bed to think over matters, which were more 
complicated than ever. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 

D ARCH'S visit to Toby's uncle did not help him 
very much to get a grasp of things as they were. 
The idea that Mam'zel Clarice, through her con- 
nection with the French police, knew Lady Gibson's 
secret seemed, on the face of it, to be improbable. 
The woman was frivolous, scheming, fond of money, 
and anxious to make capital out of her daughter's 
beauty. But Darch saw no reason to think that 
she was bad, or that she was likely to have a secret 
known to the English or Continental police. That 
there was a secret he was sure, since she consented 
to Sylvia's engagement to Hurst, but that it was 
a criminal one he doubted. Doubted also if Mam'zel 
Clarice knew it. How Hurst had learned the truth, 
seeing that for many years he had lived so secluded 
a life, it was hard to say. But, at all events. Miles 
felt confident that Mam'zel had not enlightened 
him. All the same, he wished he could find the 
woman and question her. But she had disappeared 
and was nowhere to be found. 

Melicent looked better when Miles met her at the 
railway station, but a strange objection to returning 
home had taken hold of her. Certainly she was 
going back to Grenacer, for she could allege no reason 
why she should remain away, and moreover had no 

I So 



THE SHADOW OF EVIL. iSi 

other home to go to. She was strivmg to overcome 
the fear of her uncle, which had sprung into being 
since his engagement to Sylvia. For now Sylvia 
had the engagement ring on her finger and had inter- 
viewed her elderly lover. Miles saw by the haunting 
look in the girl's eyes that she was afraid, and 
strove to reassure her by making light of her fears. 

" You are frightened of shadows," he said jokingly. 

" Shadows can be very terrible," she replied 
quietly. 

" Not when they are faced and their shadowy- 
qualities proved, my dear. Do you wish to know 
what I think of your uncle ? " 

" Yes," said Melicent, with a tremor which she 
could not suppress. 

" Well, I think he is a man with a fondness for 
luxury and enjoyment which he had to suppress for 
want of money. Also — and this is a point in his 
favour — he has remained in seclusion, more or less, 
at Grenacer in order to look after your father, who 
was too debilitated a man to manage things. Now 
that his task is completed, and the money from the 
will added to his own small income gives him the 
means of indulging in his likings, I think he is anxious 
to come out into the world. He may be fond of 
pleasure, iNIelicent, and I think he is, but that does 
not mean he is bad or dangerous." 

" Yet he forced Lady Gibson to " 

"Ah! that is Lady Gibson's story." 

" It is the story she told Sylvia," interrupted the 
girl dryly, " and it must be a terrible one to make 
Sylvia give up Toby for Uncle Ralph." 

" She gave him up for your father." 

" I know. But she told her mother, in my presence, 
that she would not sacrifice herself any longer now 
that father is dead. Lady Gibson wanted her to 
marry that Greek merchant, and Sylvia refused, 



i82 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

saying she intended marrying Toby. At tlie lunch 
she was quite bent upon doing so. Yet, after the 
interview with her mother, she wrote that letter. 
No, Miles. There is sometliing horrible about the 
matter and Uncle Ralph knows all about it." 

" But it doesn't affect you, Meiicent ? " 

" Not directly ; but indirectly it does. For if 
Uncle Ralph is holding a whip over Lady Gibson's 
head, he may use another whip to me." 

" Well, I am near you, Meiicent, and if anything 
happens to make you feel afraid, you have only to 
send Jum for me. Besides, I shall ask Mrs. Frint to 
watch over you." 

" But she is devoted to Uncle Ralph." 

" To you also, since she nursed you." 

" Well, I think she is," admitted the girl after a 
pause. " I'm sure she doesn't wish to see me hurt." 

" Meiicent ! Meiicent ! There is no chance of 
your being hurt," 

" I don't trust Uncle Ralph," said the girl sullenly. 

From this belief Miles could not move her, and he 
shared it , himself, although he made light of the 
matter to reassure her. All he could do was to 
tell her that he was at her beck and call whenever 
she chose to summon him, and this assurance seemed 
to make the girl feel safer. When they arrived at 
Serbery station and stepped into the motor-car 
which Hurst had sent, the soothing aspect of the 
country and the bright sunshine cheered Meiicent 
greatly. She began to think tliat she had exaggerated 
things and was making a bugbear of her uncle, as she 
had made one of Hecate. By the time they arrived 
at the Hall, she was quite her old merry, cheerful 
self, although she shrank back and shivered when 
Hurst took her in his arms. 

" Welcome back, my dear child," he said loudly. 
" I have missed you a great deal. Miles, you must 



THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 183 

let her have more of my company than of your 
own, as I shall lose her to you m the long run." 

" Well, I can't come over to-night," said Darch, 
with a smile, " as I am returning to town, and 
having much work to do, will not arrive home until 
late. I can come over to-morrow night, I hope, 
Mr. Hurst." 

" Surely, surely ! " said Ralph, clapping him 
cheerily on the back. " I am always glad to see 
3'ou and you mustn't mind my jokes." 

Reassured by the friendly attitude of Ralph 
towards her lover, and the freedom of intercourse 
permitted between them, Melicent brightened still 
more and kissed Miles with a laugh when he went 
awa}'. Hurst offered the young man the motor-car 
to take him back to Serbery, but Miles preferred 
to walk, and said so. Then he turned to go, as 
Mrs. Frint came into the hall to embrace and kiss her 
nursling. But at the bottom of the steps, and before 
the footman could close the door, he turned back. 
As he thouglit, Ralph and his niece had gone into 
the library, while Mrs. Frint was mo\'ing towards 
the passage leading directly into the back part of 
the house. Miles called her, and she came forward 
with a look of apprehension which rather puzzled him. 

" Mrs. Frint, my cook wants 3^ou to give her that 
recipe for a curry you promised her," he said aloud, 
for the benefit of the solemn footman ; then, sinking 
his voice, added hastil}^ " I want to see you 
privately." 

" You shall have the recipe to-night, Mr. Darch," 
responded Mrs. Frint after a start. Then in turn 
she sank her voice. " I'll meet you at the bottom 
of the avenue in ten niimites." 

" Thank you ; thank you," said Darch, acknow- 
ledging, so far as the footman understood, the 
promise of the recipe, and then really tnok hi^ 



i84 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

leave, while Mrs. Print hurried to her room, and the 
servant closed the door. 

On the way down the avenue Miles wondered at 
her ready agreement to meet him, and the quick 
manner in which she had adopted his plan of not 
letting the footman overhear. It seemed to him as 
though she was prepared to be asked to meet him 
privately, even though the start she made hinted 
that the request was unexpected. Darch was fairly 
puzzled by her demeanour, just as he was fairly 
shocked by her wan looks. She was thin, wrinkled 
and old, quite a different woman to the stout, cheerful 
old dame whom he had known. The absence of her 
bright dress and many ribbons seemed to change 
her still more, and the black mourning garb accentu- 
ated her miserable looks. She appeared to be 
burdened with some secret, and as like as not might 
break down straight away. Darch could not under- 
stand the reason for this woeful change. 

At the big gates he waited patiently for the 
housekeeper, and soon saw her hurrying down, with 
every now and then a backward glance. She seemed 
to be afraid lest she should be followed, and when she 
reached the young man, seized his hands and drew 
liim into the wood. More than ever astonished by 
this behaviour, Miles submitted to be dragged along 
a narrow path and into a small glade. Here Mrs. 
Print released his hand and dropped on to a fallen 
tree-trunk with a sigh of relief. She wiped her hot 
face with her handkerchief as she sighed, and spoke 
hurriedly. 

" Here we are, safe for the time being." 

" What do you mean ? " asked Darch, more and 
more startled, as much by the restlessness of her 
manner as the mystery of her words. 

" Why did you ask me to meet you ? " sh^ 
demanded, not answering his question. 



THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 185 

" \Miy did you respond to my request so readily ? " 
he said dr3'ly. 

" Because I wanted to sec you, Mr. Darch. If 
you had not come to me, I should have come to you." 
She paused and rocked herself to and fro, breathing 
deeply and, as it seemed, with an effort. " Why 
do you wish to see me ? " she asked again, and 
looking up inquiringly. 

" I wish you to look after Melicent." 

" Why sliould I look after her more now than I 
have ever done ? 

" Because she is now an orphan, and orphans, 
Mrs. Print, need to be guarded." 

Mrs. Print rose and clutched his arm. " \\Tiat do 
you know ? How do you know ? " 

" Know what ? " Miles stared at her. 

Mrs. Print released his arm and wiped her face 
again. " It's quite hot here, isn't it ? " she said 
mechanical!}'. " Don't mind me, Mr. Darch. The 
Squire's death has been a shock to me, for I was 
much attached to him. I'll look after Miss Melicent, 
never fear." 

" Thank yon. And now I shall ask you the ques- 
tion you asked me. Why did you wish to see me ? " 

" I want to know when you are going to marry 
Miss Melicent ? " 

" In a year." 

Mrs. Print bent forward and whispered in his 
ear. Darch could feel her hot, hurried breath on 
his cheek. 

" Marry her at once," said the housekeeper. 

"Why? " 

" Because it would be better. She is all alone, 
poor lamb, and wants some one to love and cherish 
her." 

" She has her uncle," said Miles, with intentional 
significance 



i86 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Yes," said Mrs. Print, drawing back ; " she has 
her uncle ! " 

Darch grew annoyed. She was plainly fencing, 
wanting to tell something, yet refraining, for some 
reason, from doing so. " Be frank with me," he 
implored in earnest tones. " Remember that I love 
Melicent with all my heart, and that if anything 
should happen to her, I should never cease to 
grieve." 

" What could happen to her ? " asked the house- 
keeper, wincing. 

" Ah, that is what I wish you to tell me." 

" If you think that I am going to tell 3'ou anything 
criminal, you are mistaken," said Mrs. Frint roughly. 
" All I wished to see 370U about was to advise you to 
marry Miss Melicent as soon as possible." 

" But her year of mourning " 

" Oh, bother the year of mourning," said the 
woman vigorously. " It's this way, Mr. Darch, I'll 
be open with you, if you will promise me to keep 
what I say to yourself." 

" Certainl}^ if what you say isn't dangerous to 
Melicent." 

" Only to her property, not to her body. No," 
she spoke as if to herself, " I am quite sure she is safe 
from bodily harm." 

" Why should you doubt it ? " 

" There are things and things, Mr. Darch. But 
really, I don't doubt it. All I say is that Mr. Ralph 
has always been a trial." 

" Ah, Mr. Ralph ! " again Miles spoke meaningly. 

" What do you know about him, may I ask ? " 
the woman fired up immediately. 

" Nothing, on the face of it, but what is good. 
Only he seems to have blossomed out into a man of 
the world since his brother's death." 

" He doesn't mean any harm by that," explained 



THE SHADOW OF EVIL. i8; 

the woman feverishly. " Only you see, Mr. Darch, 
he was always wild." 

" Wild, Ralph Hurst wild ? " 

" Yes ! yes ! in quite the usual way, I mean. 
There is nothing bad about him, you know, but 
he w^as always fond of pleasure : wine and cards and 
pretty ladies, Mr. Darch. He ran through all his 
money, and the Squire kept him here on condition 
that he looked after things. When John Frint, my 
husband, went to America and died there, the Squire 
didn't appoint another bailiff. He suggested that 
Mr. Ralph should look after the estate. And he 
did very well ; he has done \-ery well all these years, 
for I looked after him and the Squire looked after 
him. People think that the Squire was a fool, but 
he was not," said Mrs. Frint excitedly. " He was 
weak and selfish and didn't trouble about things. 
But he kept an eye on Mr. Ralph, as I did." 

"Why?" 

" To see that Mr. Ralph didn't make ducks and 
drakes of things. He was always a spendthrift, 
and would have squandered the money if the Squire 
and I had not watched him. He is cleverer than we 
are ; he always was. But we had common sense, 
and as the Squire held the purse ^ilr. Ralph was 
forced to behave himself. And he has — he has. I 
assure you he is a clever man." 

" And now ? " 

" He is a clever man, I tell you, but his love of 
pleasure runs away with him, as it has done always. 
He has been in that library reading and writing and 
looking after the estate for years and years, only 
going up every now and then to London to enjoy 
himself in a quiet way. But now he is free." 

" Ah ! " Darch grasped immediately what she 
meant . 

" Yes," insisted Mrs. Fruit ; " he's free to do what 



i88 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

he likes with the money before he hands it over to 
Miss Mehcent. And even then she'll only be an 
infant in his hands. Marry her as soon as you can, 
Mr. Darch, and look after the money, or there'll be 
none left. I have been a servant in this family for 
forty 3'ears, and I don't want to see the Hall sold 
and the estate cut up. There's no harm in Mr. 
Ralph, save that he's fond of pleasure and wastes 
money. He'd kill me if he knew that I talked like 
this, so don't tell him." 

" No," said Miles soothingly, " I won't. And I 
quite understand why you wished to see me, and 
drew me to this quiet spot. But I am surprised to 
hear what you say of the Squire. I always thought 
that Ralph looked after him rather than he after 
Ralph." 

"It is difficult to explain " said Mrs. Frint with 
a sigh. " The Squire was always weak in his body, 
and never seemed to have enough energy to do any- 
thing. But he was cleverer than you think, and 
more far-seeing." 

" Surely not when he made Ralph his daughter's 
guardian." 

" Ah, he did that for the sake of peace, as Mr. 
Ralph was so angry when any other guardian was 
proposed. But the Squire thought that long before 
he died i\liss JMelicent would be married to you, and 
then she would not require a guardian. But you 
know how the Squire died unexpectedly at the 
hands of that miserable woman." 

Miles nodded. "I see ! Well, I shall try and 
induce Melicent to marry me at once ; but perhaps if 
she refuses it won't matter much, as she takes pos- 
session of her property in two months." 

" I told you that she w^ould be but an infant in 
Mr. Ralph's hands," said Mrs. Frint with a frown. 

" Melicent has a will of her own and " 



THE SHx\DOW OF EVIL. 189 

■' Her will cannot stand against Mr. Ralph's will," 
interrupted the woman, " for he is as clever as Satan 
himself in many ways. But don't think that he is 
really bad," she went on anxiously. " It's only his 
love of pleasure which I speak against." 

Mrs. Frint seemed inclined at once to blame Hurst 
and to praise him, and was evidently distressed at 
having to speak at all. Apparently she was fond of 
Ralph, whom she had known from the time they 
were both children together : she a village girl and 
he the young gentleman of the Hall. " Don't think 
he is really bad," said Mrs. Frint again, twisting her 
handkerchief, " only get Miss Melicent to marry you 
as soon as possible, so that j^ou can look after the 
money. Mr. Ralph isn't good, but he isn't bad. 
And now that's all I have to say. Keep this con- 
versation secret." 

" I promise you that, unless it is necessary in 
Melicent's interest to reveal it." 

" It won't be," said Mrs. Frint vehemently. 
" Didn't I tell you that she is safe from bodily harm. 
It's only her money that is in danger, and I don't 
want ]\Ir. Ralph to play ducks and drakes with that, 
besides getting into bad company with his love of 
pleasure." 

" H'm ! " said Darch, " perhaps marriage will cure 
him of his profligacy." 

Mrs. Frint, who was walking away, turned sharply. 
" Marriage ! " 

" Yes ; don't you know that Mr. Ralph is going 
to marry Miss Gibson ? " 

Mrs. Frint 's face was already pale, but if possible it 
became paler. " You ain't speaking truly, are you ? " 

" Yes, I am. Ask Miss Melicent." 

" But Miss Gibson was engaged to the Squire," 
said Mrs. Frint, in a scared voice, and trembling 
violently. 



igo THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Well, the Squire is dead, so Ralph thinks he has 
a chance." 

" And has he ? " 

" Not if Miss Gibson is left to her own wishes. 
She loves Dr. Smith " 

"I know ! I know ! " 

" But her mother wishes her to marry Mr. Ralph." 

" That she shall never do." Mrs, Print's face 
flushed scarlet and her voice rang out like a bell. 
" Never, never, never," and with a fierce look she 
walked away, increasing her speed at every stride 
until she was fairly running. 

Darch, surprised at the way in which she took 
the news, wondered if there was anj^thing between 
her and the pleasure-loving Ralph to make her so 
furious. All the way to Serbery he pondered over 
this, and also over the advice she gave concerning 
marriage with Melicent. Undoubtedly Ralph would 
.squander the mone}^ if his character was as Mrs. 
Frint explained ; but bad as this hearing was, Miles 
felt relieved that things were no worse. Melicent 
at least was safe from bodily harm, as Ralph would 
not kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. And 
yet, as Miles reflected in the train, if the goose was 
kflled, Ralph was the heir to the golden hoard. He 
tried to believe that Mrs. Frint spoke truly, that 
Ralph was only profligate and not criminal. But 
he could not help thinking that the man was more 
dangerous than the woman would admit. She 
seemed to have a weakness for the scamp, as was 
shown by her indignation over his possible marriage 
with Sylvia, and therefore veiled his worst qualities. 

" Anyhow," thought Miles when travelling in a 
taxi towards the Temple, " Mrs. Frint will look after 
Melicent and will see that she comes to no harm." 

After arriving at this conclusion, he set to work, 
and passed the rest of the afternoon and the greater 



THE SHADOW OF EVIL. 191 

part of the evening in dry-as-dust study. He would 
rather have been digging in his garden under the 
open sky than employed in law studies ; but it was 
necessary for him to make a name, and only by 
hard work could he make one. And, after all, he 
had the example of Jum to shame him into sticking 
to his weary task. There was something of the 
sybarite in Darch's nature which was difficult to 
conquer. Only his love for Melicent gave him the 
strength to conquer it. 

It was with a sigh of relief that the young man 
caught the midnight train at Liverpool Street. As 
he walked along slowly to enter his carriage, another 
train drew up on the other side of the platform. 
Crowds of people, mostly holiday-makers who had 
been to Southend, rushed out of the train and along 
to the barrier. Miles watched them idly and then, 
to his surprise, saw Ralph Hurst in the throng with 
a light overcoat above his smart evening dress, and 
carrying a bag in his hand. Ralph did not notice 
him, and of this Miles was glad. But, astonished 
as he was to see Hurst at this late hour coming to 
London, he was still more astonished when he saw 
Jum, in a tweed suit, with a rakish green hat, 
darting in the wake of the big man. Jum saw 
Darch, placed a warning finger on his lips and 
followed the man he was spying on, with the cunning 
of a Redskin on the death trail. 



CHAPTER XV. 

ACCIDENTS. 

ALTHOUGH Darch was surprised to see Jum 
in London at such a late hour, he beheved 
that he guessed the reason for his being 
there. The bo}' was following Ralph, to watch his 
doings, and doubtless did so at the behest of Mrs. 
Print. Miles bore in mind her lament for Hurst's 
graceless instincts, and her dread lest he should get 
into bad company. Therefore, it was probable that 
she had instructed Jum to spy on him in the hope of 
averting disaster, should the 'man's profligacy invite 
the same. All doubts on this subject were ended by 
an explanation from Jum himself. Miles went to his 
chambers as usual next day, and while busy received 
an unexpected visit from the page. Alert and 
bright-eyed, in his smart tweed suit and remarkable 
Tyrolean hat, which was aggressively green, the boy 
made his appearance. Miles looked up from the 
brief he was studying, and silentlv, with uplifted 
eyebrows, requested an explanation. Jum gave it 
immediately, in his best English. 

" I know you are surprised to see me, sir," he said, 
twisting his hat in his hands and meeting Darch' s 
gaze honestly, " but, as you came across me at the 
station the other night, I thought it best to come 
and explain." 

192 



ACCIDENTS. 193 

" WTiy need you ? " asked the barrister cautiously, 
and wondering if there was any hidden meaning in 
this unsohcited visit. " I have nothing to do with 
your movements." 

" I think Mrs. Frint would Hke me to explain, 
sir." 

" Have you seen her to-day ? " 

" No, sir. I stayed in town last night, as you 
may guess, since I followed Mr. Ralph up by the 
last train." 

" WTiy did you follow him ? " 

" Mrs. Frint told me to do so, sir. She also said 
that you were in her coniidence, so I don't mind 
speaking freely to you." 

" And your object ? " Darch was still cautious. 

Jum was quite frank about his object. " I don't 
want you to tell Mr. Ralph that I was following 
him, sir." 

" Why ? " 

" Well, you see, sir, Mrs. Frint having been at the 
Hall all her life is fond of Mr. Ralph, and doesn't 
want him to get into trouble. Now he's got money 
she thinks he will get into trouble, and told me to 
keep an eye on him. So when he comes to town I 
come too. But if he knew that, he would send both 
Mrs. Frint and me away from the Hall. There's no 
harm in my following Mr. Ralph, sir. It's for his 
good, and because Mrs. Frint is so kind-hearted." 

Miles thought for a moment, and found the lad's 
explanation reasonable enough. " I shan't say any- 
thing," he said, after a pause ; " but you and Mrs. 
Frint must keep me advised of Mr. Ralph's doings. 
What does he do in town, Jum ? " 

" He drinks and gambles, and runs after the 
girls," said Jum concisely. 

" A boy of your age shouldn't know anything 
about these things." Darch was embarrassed as 

N 



194 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

much by the boy's innocent, steady gaze as by his 
direct speech, which was deUvered quite unemo- 
tionally. 

" You forget, sir, that I was a street-arab until 
Mrs. Frint took me to the Hall," said Jum quietly. 
" And what I don't know of wickedness isn't worth 
knowing. What I see and hear can't hurt me, sir, 
as I've learned better." 
" From Mr. Ralph ? " 

" He's been kind to me in teaching me to speak 
properly and in educating me, sir. Wild as he is, 
and many faults as he has, I'm not saying anything 
against him. I want to do the best I can for him, 
just as Mrs. Frint does, for I owe as much to him 
as to her." 

Jum spoke quite like an old and experienced man, 
so that the barrister was astonished at his acumen. 
Evidently he was quite honest in what he said, and 
was simply doing what Mrs. Frint desired him to do, 
and was bent upon repaying those who had been 
kind to him by helping the one to save the other. 

Darch nodded his approval when the boy finished 
speaking. " Has Mr. Ralph returned to Grenacer ? " 
he asked. 

" Yes, sir. He went down by the ten o'clock 
morning train. I should have gone too, but that I 
wanted to come here and ask you to say nothing. 
Mr. Ralph likes to be in London at night, and 
doesn't care for it in the day." 

" I quite understand, Jum. By the way, I wish 
you would look after Miss Melicent and see that she 
comes to no harm." 

" Mrs. Frint told me to do so, sir, and I'm on the 
watch ; so is she." 

" Then you think that Miss Melicent is in danger ? " 
Darch was startled. 

" It's just as well to be on the safe side, sir," said 



ACCIDENTS. 195 

Jum evasively, for, like the housekeeper, he appar- 
ently did not wish to say anything against Hurst. 
" I'll do what I can, sir. And now I'll go." 

" Very good ; and if anything goes wrong, Jum, 
mind you come to me here or at Grenacer to warn 
me." 

" Yes, sir ! " and Jum, with a funny, stiff little 
bow disappeared, leaving Miles much more easy in 
his mind. With Mrs. Print and her satehite to look 
after Melicent he believed that she would be quite 
safe. 

For the next two weeks things went on much the 
same. Ralph journeyed up to town as usual, and 
Jum followed him regularly. At times he went 
to music-halls, frequented theatres, and haunted 
drinking saloons. Jum found out that a house in 
Knightsbridge he visited was a gambling hell, and 
watched at the door to see him come out after hours 
of card-playing. Occasionally Ralph paid a visit to 
Lady Gibson's flat to see Sylvia and her mother, 
wliom he taunted with their inability to escape 
his tyranny. Of course Jum did not know this, 
although he shrewdly suspected when he saw the 
girl's face — Ralph sometimes took her to the theatre 
— that such was the case. The boy was hampered 
by his difficulty in following Hurst into houses, but 
he learned enough of the man's doings to assiu'c the 
broken-hearted Mrs. Print that Ralph was going 
downhill as fast as he could. One would have 
thought that this concentrated dissipation would 
have ruined the man's health, but his long years of 
seclusion in the library had given him much re- 
served strength, and he showed no signs of breaking 
up. Melicent was far from suspecting that he led 
so disgraceful a life, and, as he treated her with every 
consideration, and was altogether his old kindly self, 
she began to laugh at her fears. No one was more 



£ ) -) THE BLACK IMAGE. 

agreeable than Ralph when he so chose to be, and 
he pointedly endeavoured to make his niece as 
happy as possible. 

" I don't want you to mope/' said Ralph on 
several occasions. " Your father's terrible death has 
been a shock to you which is difficult to overcome. 
Let me take you to town, Melicent, and escort you 
to theatres and such-like." 

" Thank you, Uncle Ralph, but I couldn't go to 
places of amusement so soon after my father's 
death," she said, gratefully admitting his kind 
intentions. " You wouldn't do it yourself." 

" No, I wouldn't," said Hurst virtuously. " I 
wouldn't even go to town but that I have to see Mr. 
Grain, the lawyer, about your property. I shall be 
glad when I can hand it over to you, my dear. But 
if you won't seek amusement — and perhaps you are 
right not to do so under the circumstances — let us 
do what we can to be happy. Get Dr. Smith and 
Miles to come oftener to the Hall. We can have 
some music and play bridge. The Vicar and his 
wife might come too." 

All this attention impressed Melicent, as it was 
intended to impress her, that Hurst really loved her 
and wished to make her happy. There were many 
merry evenings at the Hall, now that the first sorrow 
over the Squire's death had passed away, and every- 
one declared that Hurst was behaving like a father 
to his niece. Melicent gradually got over her mis- 
trust of the man, and believed that in some way 
Sylvia had deceived her about the engagement. 
She only rarely heard from Sylvia, and the letters 
were mostly about nothing. No word was said 
of Ralph and his tyranny, and little mention was 
made of him at all, so gradually the girl was lulled 
into a feeling of peace and happiness. Miles was 
glad to see this, and did not disturb Melicent by 



ACCIDENTS. 197 

questioning the honesty of Ralph. All the same, he 
still mistrusted him, and was more watchful than 
ever. Believing, on the evidence of the postscript, 
that Hurst had forced the engagement on Sylvia, 
he could not believe the man to be the kindly, inno- 
cent old gentleman he showed himself to be. He 
thought that Hurst was playing a part, and playing 
it very successfully, for every one, both high and low, 
were loud in their praises of Ralph's kindness to his 
niece and to the household generally. What Mrs. 
Frint thought Darch could not learn. She never 
said anything more to him and avoided him alwa3's. 
The barrister questioned Jum, but he was loyal to 
the housekeeper and pretended that he knew nothing. 
All the same, Darch felt certain that the lad knew 
a great deal. 

Melicent nearly met with a bad accident at the 
end of the fortnight which had elapsed since her 
return to the Hall. She was about to descend the 
staircase when her foot slipped on a pea, and she 
just saved herself by cHnging to the banisters. 
Astonished that a pea should be in such a place, 
the girl knelt down and found that there were 
many, not only on the landing, but on the stairs 
themselves. These were polished, and the stair- 
carpet, from long use, was very worn, so if she 
had not stumbled at the top, she would probably 
have slipped on the peas and fallen headlong 
down the stairs. A broken neck would certainly 
have been the sure result. Her sudden cry of 
astonishment brought out her uncle, who was in 
his library. 

" What's the matter, child ? " he asked, looking 
up the stairs. 

" Peas are the matter," said Melicent, still holding 
on to the banisters, for although she had slipped 
down to kneel and make her examination, she had 



igS THE BLACK IMAGE. 

nut let go, very wisely. " The stairs are strewn 
with peas." 

" Dear ! dear ! " Ralph ran up cautiously, not 
wishing to fall himself. " How very dangerous. 
Who dropped these peas ? " 

" I don't know." 

Hurst frowned and returned to the library, asking 
Mclicent to follow him. He rang the bell for Mrs. 
Print, gave her orders, and shortly all the servants 
appeared to be asked searching questions. Every 
one of them denied any knowledge of the peas, until 
Jum stepped forward to be examined. In a doleful 
voice and with some tears he admitted that he had 
bought a pea-shooter in the village and a bag of peas 
with it. In his hurry when coming down the stairs 
he must have dropped some of the peas. He was 
very sorry ; he would not be so careless again, and 
by meekly submitting to a scolding he strove to 
mitigate Hurst's righteous wrath. 

" You're a young monkey," cried Ralph angrily. 
" Miss Melicent might have slipped and broken 
her neck, thanks to your carelessness. I have 
a good mind to send j^ou back to your slum in 
London." 

" Oh, don't do that, sir," pleaded Mrs. Frint, who 
looked more haggard than ever, "for I'm sure 
Frederick will never do it again." 

" I'm sorry ; I'm very sorry," whimpered Jum, 
thrusting his knuckles into his eyes. " I'm sure I 
wouldn't hurt Miss Melicent for the world." 

Then the girl herself pleaded for the culprit, and 
with some difhculty induced her uncle to overlook 
the matter. " He's only a boy, Uncle Ralph, and 
boys will make mistakes." 

" This mistake might have cost you a broken neck, 
or .a the least a twisted ankle," said Hurst severely. 
" However, since you ask me, I have no wish to be 



ACCIDENTS. 199 

hard on the boy. Jiim, go and pick up the peas, 
and thank your stars that Miss MeUcent is so for- 
giving. Remember, all of you, that now my brother 
is dead I am responsible for the safety of my niece. 
Now go." 

The servants, with Mrs. Print at their head, 
departed thankfully, for they had never seen Ralph 
in such a rage. Jum picked up the peas at once, 
but had a bad time in the kitchen for having 
brought trouble on his fellow-servants. So the 
incident passed off all right, and in a few days 
was wholly forgotten. Frederick Marr was over- 
whelmed with sorrow at his carelessness, and threw 
away his pea-shooter when ]\Irs. Frint ordered 
him to do so. She scolded the boy herself very 
thoroughl3^ 

Although the nipping autumnal air of early Sep- 
tember was making itself felt, the weather was still 
bright and sunny. Melicent spent a great deal of 
her time in the garden, taking her fancy-work and 
a book to some favoured spot for an hour or so. 
One seat she particularly liked was placed under a 
large elm-tree on the verge of the lawns, spreading 
greenly before the front of the great mansion. Here 
the girl could see the beautiful old building to great 
advantage, a \ast expanse of blue sky, in which 
white pigeons whirled, and the brilliant colours of 
what flowers remained in bloom at this late season 
of the year. Ralph noticed that she frequently sat 
here and objected to her doing so. 

" Elm trees are treacherous, Melicent," he 
warned her gravely. " Their boughs fall when 
least expected. Don't you think so. Miles ? " 
he asked the young man, who happened to be 
present . 

" Well, yes," said ]\Iiles carelessly, and not attach- 
ing much attention to the warning. " They make 



200 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

coffins of elm wood, so I suppose the tree is always 
trying to kill people in order that the coffins may be 
filled." 

" What a horrid remark," said Melicent with a 
shiver. " But my elm-tree is all right. I've never 
seen a bough fall from it." 

" That doesn't say that a bough will not fall," 
retorted her uncle sharply. " Find another place to 
sit in." 

Out of sheer contrariness Melicent would not, and 
still continued to take her work and her book to the 
seat under the mighty tree. But, as afterwards was 
proved, Hurst spoke truly. Only two days after the 
conversation the catastrophe happened, and it 
would have been a terrible one but for the clever- 
ness of Jum. Evidently repentant of his folly over 
the spilt peas the boy haunted IMelicent's steps, 
attending to her in e\^ery way, and rather worried 
her with his persistent civility. The girl was seated 
as usual in her favourite spot, reading and sewing, 
when Jum issued from the house with a glass of milk 
on a tray. For the last hour he had been lurking in 
the house and out of the house with his eyes on his 
young mistress. So that he might approach her the 
more nearly he invented the excuse of bringing her 
the glass of milk on the plea that she might be 
thirsty. Melicent looked up and saw him coming, 
then bent over her work again. But from this she 
was aroused by a yell from the boy, and looked again 
to see him writhing on the ground, the tray fallen 
from his hands and the milk spilt. 

" Oh, miss, miss. Come and help me ; come 
and — oh — oh — oh ! " he pressed his hands to his 
stomach. 

Alarmed by the sight and the sudden screams of 
the boy, Melicent rose in a hurry, letting fall her book 
and fancy-work in order to fly to Jum's assistance. 



ACCIDENTS. 201 

Scarcely had she passed from under the shelter of 
the elm when a gigantic bough crashed down on the 
very place where she had been sitting a moment 
before. Had she remained an instant longer she 
would have been a dead woman, or at least terribly 
injured. With a gasp of thankfulness that she had 
escaped the danger, Melicent hurried up to Jum, 
only to find him on his feet again, white as a sheet, 
but very much relieved. 

" It's all right, miss," he said, getting his breath 
back ; " there is nothing the matter with me. But 
I saw the bough bending, and pretended to be sick 
so as to get you from under the tree." 

" Oh, Jum! " Melicent took the lad's hand and 
pressed it, " you have saved my life I really believe," 
and she looked at the enormous bianch with a 
shudder. " How awful ! " 

" Well, I nearly killed you with those silly peas 
the other day, miss," faltered Jum, quite overcome, 
" so I'm glad I've had a chance of making it up. Oh, 
here is Mr. Ralph, miss ! He will be glad to know 
you are safe." 

" Mr. Ralph ! He's gone to the \icaragc," said 
Melicent, turning. 

But it was Ralph, as Jum said. He had been to 
the vicarage, as it appeared, and was returning uj) 
the avenue when he heard the piercing cries of jum 
and the loud crash of the fallen bough. With 
a startled face he came running round the corner on 
to the lawn, apprehensive that something terrible had 
taken place. 

" Child ! child ! what is the matter ? " He 
hastened to take his niece in his arms and looked 
from her to Jum, from them to the fallen bough. 
"Oh! " 

" Yes, uncle," said Melicent, who now felt terri- 
fied, queerly enough, seeing that the danger was 



202 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

over. " I might have been killed by that bough 
but for Jum. He pretended to be ill and I ran to 
his assistance just as the branch fell. Oh ! " Melicent 
shuddered, " how lucky I didn't wait." 

" You would have been dead by this time if 
you had," said her uncle grimly. " So now you 
will perhaps obey my instructions and not sit under 
elm-trees' again. Foolish child, to disregard my 
warning." 

" I'll not do it again," said the girl, pale and 
quivering, for the shock of her narrow escape had 
shaken her, " but thank Jum, uncle. He saved 
me." 

" Jum, I am pleased with you." Hurst patted 
the boy on the head. " I had to scold you the other 
da}^ but you have made amends ; j^ou have made 
amends." 

" I'm only too glad to have saved Miss Melicent, 
sir," said Jum thankfully. 

" Well, there's ten shillings for j'ou, though money 
can't repay you for saving my niece's life. Melicent, 
Melicent," he turned to take the girl's arm and walk 
towards the house, " I wish you would marry Miles 
at once and relieve me of the responsibility of looking 
after you. This is the second time within the last 
week you have been in danger of death." 

" It's my own fault," admitted Melicent peni- 
tently ; " you warned me against sitting under 
the elm." 

" Well, don't be so foolish again. Go in and lie 
down, my dear, while I have a look at this fallen 
branch." 

Melicent meekly did as she was told and went to 
her room, ^^'hen she came down two hours later 
the branch had been chopped up and taken away. 
Only a jagged protruding limb of the tree showed 
where it had broken off. But the girl never sought 



ACCIDENTS. 203 

that seat again, and indeed, after the accident the 
seat itself was removed by her uncle's order. He 
repeated, and very truh% that elms were dangerous 
trees to sit under. 

There was no doubt that Melicent's narrow escape 
on this occasion made her nervous, and it was small 
wonder that she should be so, as Miles told her when 
he heard the stor3^ He made the girl promise to 
be more careful for the future, but made no other 
comment on the matter which, after all, was one of 
those untoward accidents which will happen at 
times. Melicent obeyed him and was watchful of 
herself not to sit or stand in any dangerous place. 
The concentration on this point — the point of avoid- 
ing possible danger — made her ill and worried her 
considerably. She retired early to bed for the next 
three nights and benefited by long, dreamless sleeps. 
That is, for the first two nights, her sleep was undis- 
turbed. But on the third night she wooed slumber 
in vain. Again and again she tried to get rest, but 
still felt wakeful. Finally, towards the morning, she 
closed her eyes and slipped off into an uneasy dream- 
land. How long she slept she did not know ; what were 
her dreams she could not tell sa\'e that they were un- 
pleasant. But all at once she woke with a feeling 
that some one was in the room. With a terrified 
start she opened her eyes, to sec a tall, dark figure 
standing beside her bed. As she had locked the 
door before retiring to rest, and no one could have 
entered, she believed that she was looking at a 
ghost. And the faint light of the growing dawn 
stealing in through the window — for the blind was 
up — showed her that the face of the ghost was that 
of Mam'zel Clarice. There she stood, draped in a 
long, loose mantle, looking pale and evil. As the 
girl gazed at her, spell-bound, the ghost — if it was 
one — bent forward to whisper in soft, sibilant tones : 



204 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Go away ; go away from here. There is danger, 
danger, danger ! " 

The sight of that ghastl}^ face so near to her own, 
the hissing whisper, and the lonely circumstance of 
the room at dawn, was too much for Melicent's nerves. 
She fainted straight away. Wlien she came to her- 
self it was broad daylight ; the door was still locked, 
and the room was empty. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

MRS. print's advice. 

RALPH laughed loudly at his niece's story, 
which was natural enough, considering how 
fantastic it really was. He declared that 
she must have been dreaming, since by her own 
showing she had locked the door of her room over- 
night, and no one could possibly have got in. But 
.Alelicent insisted that she had actually seen Mam'zel 
Clarice, and that she must be concealed somewhere 
about the big house. Hurst, finally impressed by 
her persistence, sent for the servants, who came 
lather sulkily to the library. They were always 
being summoned and examined, so naturally were 
growing rather tired of the atmosphere of suspicion 
which engendered constant cross-questioning. First 
they were heckled over the murder ; then about the 
affair of the spilt peas, and now they were being 
l)ut in the witness-box in connection with the pos- 
sible reappearance of IMiss Brown. But this last 
examination, having a ghostly flavour, rather inter- 
ested them, although they were markedly afraid. 
The idea of a haunted house scared them con- 
siderably. 

One and all declared that they had seen nothing 
of Mam'zel Clarice ; they had heard nothing of her ; 

-205 



2o5 THE BLACK IMAGE 

and that there was nothing to show that she had 
been near the place. Two or three of the domestics 
gave notice, saying they did not intend to remain 
in a haunted house and there w^as quite a commo- 
tion over the whole affair. When the servants left 
the library Hurst turned towards Melicent with an 
angry look, and scolded her more thoroughly than 
he had ever done in his life. 

" You see what a lot of trouble you are bringing 
on us," he said severely. " I wish 3'ou hadn't told 
this cock-and-bull story." 

" My story is perfectly true, Uncle Ralph," she 
retorted doggedly. 

" It was a dream. No one could have got into 
the room w^hen the door was fast locked. But by 
telling this ridiculous tale you have made the ser- 
vants believe that the Hall is haunted. We shall 
have a perfect exodus." 

" I can't help the servants being silly, Uncle 
Ralph. And if they go we can get others." 

" Not easily. You know how superstitious the 
people are round about this place. No one will 
come, and then we'll be in a nice pickle. You and 
your ghost." 

" I never said it was a ghost," protested Melicent, 
with tears in her eyes, for Ralph's manner was very 
severe ; " and I don't believe it was one. That 
woman came and spoke to me." 

" Wliat did she say ? You never told me," 

"She said that I should go awa}^; that there was 
danger." 

Hurst turned away hastily and went to poke the 
fire vehemently. " I never heard such rubbish. 
WTiat danger can there be in your own home ? " 

" She said that there was danger," repeated the 
girl insistently, " and she repeated the word three 
times. As it's Saturday and Miles is at home I 



MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 207 

have sent for him. He'll be here soon, and he won't 
scoff at me as you are doing." 

" My dear child, I am not scoffing at yon. I only 
want you to talk sensibly." 

" I am talking sensibly. Have the house 
searched." 

" Because you imagine things ? Melicent, don't 
be silly." 

J, The girl, who was losing her temper, might have 
replied hotly but that Miles entered at the moment. 
He had come over immediately Jum brought Meli- 
cent's message, and was relieved to see that she was 
all right. The girl told him what she had told her 
uncle, and Hurst repeated his objections to believing 
so preposterous a talc. Miles was inclined to doubt 
Melicent 's narrative also, since it was impossible 
that Mam'zel Clarice could have remained con- 
cealed in the house for so long without being dis- 
covered. But a glance at the anxious face of the 
girl made him apparently accept what she said as 
true, and he suggested that Hurst should do what 
she asked. 

" Send to Serbery for Jupp and have the house 
searched," said Darch seriously. 

" Then you believe this silly story ? " 

" Well, Melicent is not an imaginative girl, as 
a rule, and she has no reason to invent things." 

" But the door of the bedroom was locked." 

" Mam'zel might have come in some other way," 
said Melicent sullenly. 

" Down the chimney, or in at the window, which 
is many feet from the ground, 3'ou silly girl. 
Nonsense." 

" There might be some secret door or sliding panel 
in this old house," said Darch reflectively ; " and 
we know that the Hall is hundreds of years old." 

" I know every inch of the Hall," said Hurst 



208 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

crossl}/. " And as I have lived here all my life long 
I would know if there were secret doors and panels. 
Howe\'er, let us ask Mrs. Frint. She knows the 
place just as well as I do, and even better." 

So Mrs. Frint, in her black gown and with her 
sorrowful, wasted face, was called in. She said that 
she knew of nothing secret about the Hall, and that, 
so far as she was concerned, she believed that Miss 
Melicent had seen a ghost by her bedside. This 
declaration brought Hurst's wrath down on her. 

" You silly old woman, you were always super- 
stitious," he said angrily, "and to prove how 
ridiculously you are talking, I'll agree to Melicent's 
absurd suggestion and have the Hall searched from 
cellar to attic." 

" And if you find nothing, Mr. Ralph ? " asked the 
housekeeper tartl3^ 

" Then I'll believe that Melicent was dreaming. 
Ghost indeed ; as if a ghost ever existed out of 
Christmas stories." 

" I agree with you. Uncle Ralph," said Melicent 
positively. " There are no such things as ghosts." 

" Oh, Miss Melicent, when you have seen one with 
3^our very own eyes ! " 

" It wasn't a ghost, Frint, but the woman herself ! " 

" Well, we'll settle the question." Ralph walked 
to his writing-table and dashed off a note, which 
he put into an envelope. " Frint, have this taken 
over to Inspector Jupp at Serbery at once." 

Mrs. Frint took the letter and walked out. She 
still held to her opinion, and turned at the door to 
deliver it again. " You'll find nothing and no one, 
Mr. Ralph," she said, shaking her head ; " it's a 
ghost." 

When the housekeeper left the room Melicent 
would have again talked of the matter in hand, but 
Ralph refused to listen. " Jupp will be here in an 



MRS PRINT'S ADVICE. 209 

hour or two," he said irritably, " and I don't want 
to say anything or hear anything until he has made 
an official search. Miles, I really wish you would 
marry Melicent at once. She's getting on my 
nerv'CS. There is nothing but trouble in connection 
with her." 

" It's not my fault, Uncle Ralph. Blame Hecate, 
for her hand is still closed." 

" That's another of your superstitions," he retorted 
angrily, " and one which has been explained away. 
Mam'zel, according to Jupp's theory, bent the 
leaden fingers of the statue into the shape of the 
clenched fist before she climbed that wall to stab 
your father. I told her the idiotic legend of the 
image when she first came here. I do wish you'd 
marry Miles." 

" I'm ready to marry Melicent within twenty- 
four hours, if she likes," said the young man 
eagerly. 

" Perhaps I'll agree," said Melicent, tossing her 
head. " I don't want to stay where I'm not 
appreciated." 

Ralph's face fell perceptibly when she said this, 
and Miles saw it fall. He believed privately that 
the man was bluffing and that, far from wanting his 
niece to marry, he would prevent the ceremony from 
taking place if she showed a desire to agree with 
him. However, Hurst said nothing, and soon re- 
sumed his usual expression of countenance, waving 
the two young people out of the library as he did so. 
They left the room willingly enough, as they had 
much to say to one another. And Miles particularly 
wished to get Melicent to himself. 

" My dear," he said gravely, and when they were 
walking in the garden, so that no one might over- 
hear, " I wish you'd do what your uncle suggests, 
and marry me at once," 

Q 



210 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" My father has been dead only two months. 
Miles." 

"I know; and that is why your uncle suggests 
our immediate marriage." 

" \\n.mt do you mean ? " 

" I mean that he knows you would not agree 
to it." 

" But Uncle Ralph wants me to marry you so that 
he can be free to marry Sylvia," said Melicent, 
amazed by his speech. 

"If your uncle marries Sylvia he will have to leave 
the Hall," said the young man sharply ; " and even 
if he doesn't marry her, I don't want him to stay 
hanging round here when we become husband and 
wife. Therefore, as he would lose his home, he 
wishes to prevent our marriage. Did you see the 
look on his face when you said that you might fall 
in with his suggestion, Melicent ? " 

" No ; don't be hard on uncle, Miles, and try to 
put me against him again." 

"I am not trying to do that. I said nothing to 
make you fear him." 

" No," admitted the girl frankly, " it was because 
I thought he coerced Sylvia into getting engaged 
to him that I v/as afraid. But perhaps Sylvia has 
not been quite open w^ith me, and her mother 
may be at the bottom of things. I am not 
afraid of Uncle Ralph now. He is always kind 
and thoughtful." 

Miles was embarrassed. He felt confident that 
Hurst did not mean well by his niece, but ch'd not 
wish to alarm her unduly. The girl had been shaken 
by her father's murder : shaken by the suspicions 
she entertained of her uncle, which she had now 
overcome ; and now she was shaken by the reap- 
pearance of Miss Brown either in the spirit or in the 
flesh. Darch felt that if he spoke too plainly she 



MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 211 

would probably become hysterical. So he curbed 
his desire to be frank and tried to argue her into an 
immediate wedding. Only in that way, he silently 
believed, could he secure her safety. But although 
he spent over an hour in talking the matter out 
Melicent refused to agree. She still had a haunting 
feeling that she had been an undutiful daughter, and 
so wished to show respect to her father's memory by 
refusing to accept what she most desired. In her 
own heart she wished to marry Miles at once and 
put an end to all the trouble which had taken place 
since Hecate first closed her hand. But an over- 
strained feeling of remorse prevented her from 
indulging in this desire. 

In due time Inspector Jupp arrived, with two 
detectives in plain clothes, and was greatly excited 
by the summons he had recei\ed. He scouted Mrs. 
Print's idea of a ghost, and agreed with Melicent 
that she had seen the missing woman as a real flesh 
and blood person. As to Hurst, he declared that 
the whole thing was due to his niece's vivid imagina- 
tion and constant brooding over the murder. He 
was certain that Jupp and his myrmidons would find 
nothing, but gave them full permission to search 
the house. This they did with zeal. 

From the cellars to the attic they searched, and 
made a particular examination of Melicent 's bed- 
room. The great mansion was a queer, rambling, 
ancient structure, some of it excessively old, and 
other parts comparatively modern. There were 
many rooms which led into one another ; narrow 
passages which led to nowhere and odd little stairs 
all over the place. Sometimes they had to step up 
to a room ; sometimes they had to step down into 
a room, and found so many queer twistings and turn- 
ings that the Inspector became quite bewildered. 
It was a rabbit warren of an house, in which any- 



212 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

one could have hidden successfully, and this idea 
made Jupp still more zealous in his search for 
Mam'zel Clarice. He knew that if he found her, 
great glory would accrue to him, as a zealous and 
efficient officer of the law. But nothing came of his 
efforts, or the efforts of the detectives, assisted 
though they were by Melicent, her uncle, Miles and 
Mrs. Frint. They all rapped at panels, took down 
ancient pictures, shook old draperies, and tested the 
floors. Some strange hiding-places they certainly 
did fmd, but these were empty, so in the end Jupp 
had to confess himself beaten. 

■" I'm afraid I must agree with your uncle. Miss 
Hurst," he said disconsolately ; " you had the 
nightmare." 

"I had not," she denied crossly. "I was as 
wide awake as you are at the present moment and 
much more sensible. How the woman got into my 
room I do not know, but she was there right 
enough." 

" If she was in the house, we should have found 
her," said the Inspector. " We have searched 
every hole and corner." 

Ralph laughed. " Nothing will convince my niece 
that the woman is not in the house," he said loudly. 
" So suppose — with her consent, of course — we 
burn down the place. Then Mam'zel Clarice, if she 
is hiding, will have to come out." 

"It's all very well laughing, Uncle Ralph, but I 
hold to my story." 

" A nightmare, Miss Hurst, believe me," said the 
Inspector indulgently, as he stepped into his motor 
and signed that the plain-clothes detectives should 
take their seats. " If she appears to you again, lay 
hold of her, and let me know. Nothing would give 
me greater pleasure than to bring her to book." 
and he drove away, laughing. 



MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 213 

" Well, my dear," said Hurst, when the car 
whizzed out of sight, " we've had enough of this, I 
think. I'm going to have a quiet read in the library ; 
and you can talk to Miles. Walk in the garden ; 
it will charm away your fancies." 

Out of sheer contradiction and because he spoke 
so scoffingly, Melicent refused to return to the 
garden with her lover. " We'll go to the Sanctuary, 
for the gloom of that just suits my feelings at the 
present moment." 

Hurst shrugged his huge shoulders. " You'll have 
your hands full of a wilful girl when you marry 
Melicent, Miles," he said, with a laugh, and stalked 
away. 

Mrs. Frint, who had preserved a rigid face through- 
out the search, listened with open ears to this harm- 
less conversation. When Hurst retired into the 
library, she made sure that he was within and 
settled to an hour's reading, by listening at the door. 
Then she took her way through the hall, along 
the passage and into the Squire's study. The lovers 
were walking in the Sanctuary, with their arms 
round one another, looking up every now and then 
at the gigantic figure of Hecate glooming in 
the sunshine with her clenched fists and sinister 
face. She looked like an evil spirit threatening 
the young people with disaster. And indeed, she 
had brought disaster on ,them very heavily as it 
was. 

" Miss Melicent," called out Mrs. Frint, stepping 
out on to the terrace, " I want to speak to you and 
to Mr. Darch there." 

" All right," said the girl carelessly, while Miles 
looked up with sudden interest. " Come and sit 
down on the terrace." 

" You and Mr. Darch can sit, miss. I'll stand," 
said the woman, and descending the steps, took 



214 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

up her position before them. " TeU me again 
what the ghost said to you, Miss MeUcent." 

" It wasn't a ghost, Frint," was the imi:>atient 
reply, " it was really and truly Mam'zel Clarice." 

" Well, have it your own way. Miss Melicent. Only 
tell me again what she said ? " 

" She said that there was danger here and that I 
should go away." 

Mrs. Frint nodded. " And you will obey ? " 

" No. Why should I ? " 

" If there's danger, it's just as well to get away 
from danger," said the woman, with a sombre light 
in her eyes. " Take the warning, miss, and go." 

" Bat where can I possibly go to, Frint. This 
is my home." 

" Marry Mr. Darch at once, and he'll make 
another home for you." 

" But why should I ? " asked Melicent, looking 
impressed by this persistence. 

" Because the ghost advised you to get avv'ay from 
danger." 

" Is there danger really, Mrs. Frint ? " asked 
Darch anxiously. 

" Miss Melicent nearly broke her neck v/hen she 
slipped on those peas. She only escaped the fall 
of that bough by a miracle. I should think there 
was danger. Go while it is time." 

" But those were accidents," said Miss Hurst 
uneasily. 

" Arranged accidents," corrected Mrs. Frint 
grimly, " and more will be arranged if you don't 
run away." 

Miles jumped up, horrified, to find his worst 
suspicions confirmed in this way. " Do you mean 
to say that Mr. Hurst " 

" I say nothing of him," interrupted the house- 
keeper, turning on him fiercely, " and j^ou know 



MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 215 

that I never have said anything. All I do say is 
that a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse. 
Don't be a fool, sir, and let Miss Melicent have 
her own wa\'. Bundle her neck and crop out of 
this house and drag her to the altar if she won't go 
otherwise." 

" Frint " — Melicent was on her feet also by this 
time, and gasped with rage — " I never heard you 
speak like this before." 

" You hear me now," said the housekeeper 
significantly. 

" How dare you ; how dare you ? " 

" Because I'm fond of you, Miss Melicent, because 
I nursed you, because I want to see you happy and " 
— Mrs. Frint dropped her voice — " safe." 

" JMelicent, take Mrs. Print's advice " 

" The ghost's advice," interposed the woman 
icily. 

" And marry me at once," finished Miles. " You 
are not safe here." 

" Who is not safe here ? " inquired a bland voice, 
and the three turned to see Ralph standing at the 
door of the study. His voice was calm and 
bland, but his great red face was convulsed with 
rage. Mrs. Print gave a cry of alarm when she 
saw his furious looks, and he turned on her with a 
snarl. " You may well cry out, you shameless 
woman. I have listened to your talk about Melicent 
leaving her home. You listened at the door of the 
library, thinking I was safe for an hour, while you 
poisoned my niece's ears. But I heard you, I followed 
you, and I have been listening to everything. 
Frint, you shall pack up to-night and go to-morrow, 
bag and baggage." 

" I refuse," said the housekeeper in a frightened 
whimper. 

" You can refuse or not, as you like, but out you 



2i6 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

go. I've put lip long enough with your silly talk, 
and poisonous hints." 

" Uncle Ralph," cried Melicent with great spirit, 
" Frint is my serv^ant, not yours. She shan't go," 
and Melicent stamped, with her ej^es flashing 
angrily. 

" Hold your tongue," said Hurst brutally. 

" Gently," interposed Darch, his colour rising, 
" gently." 

" Don't you meddle." 

" Oh, but I shall. Melicent is engaged to marry 
me, and " 

" She shall never marry you," declared Ralph 
furiously. 

Miles sprang up the steps so suddenly that Hurst 
fell back a step or two into the room, thinking he 
was about to be struck. But the young man, 
although his fists were clenched, kept his temper 
admirably, and he faced the bully very calmly. 
" She shall marry me, and you shall behave properly 
to her until she does marry me." 

" I'm Melicent's guardian, and I'll do what I 
like both with her and this fiend of a Frint. You 
hear, Frint. Out you go." 

Melicent threw her arms round the woman. 
" She shan't go." 

" She shall, and you'll go to your room until 
I send for you." 

" Stop it. Hurst," said Darch firmly. " You're 
not going to behave in this way towards my future 
wife. If Melicent is wise she will come with me, 
now that she sees you as you really are, and not 
what you have pretended to be for so many lying 
years." 

" I shall stay here," said Melicent, whose blood 
was up, " and I'm quite able to face you, Uncle 
Ralph. I'm not afraid of you. Frint shall stay, 



MRS. PRINT'S ADVICE. 217 

and I shall act just as I please. Miles, you can 
go now. Come back to-morrow morning." Then, 
when he hesitated, she added, " I'm quite safe." 

" Very good," said the barrister, although he was 
reluctant to leave her. " But you understand, 
Hurst, that if anything happens to Melicent I shall 
hold you responsible. There must be no more " — 
he brought his face close to that of the angry man — 
" accidents." 

Hurst turned white, stared at Miles, and then 
walked away in the silence, opening and shutting 
his hands as if he wished to strangle the three of 
them. And it is tolerably certain that he did so 
wish. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

DIPLOMACY. 

IT might be thought from Darch's opinion of 
Hurst's character, which was confirmed by the 
man's outbreak, that he would be afraid to 
leave the girl he loved in the power of such a 
scoundrel. But the barrister knew very well that 
scoundrels value the safety of their own skins, 
and therefore, this particular scamp, knowing that 
he was suspected, would be cautious how he acted. 
The accidents, on the authority of Mrs. Frint, Miles 
believed to be no accidents, but well-planned schemes 
to get rid of Melicent. That the first had not 
succeeded was due to Providence ; that she had 
escaped the danger of the second was due to Jum's 
quick wit. But Miles did not think that Hurst 
would risk setting further traps, since he now knew 
that if anything untoward happened to his niece, 
he would be brought to book. This being the case, 
Darch had no hesitation in allowing Melicent to 
remain at the Hall. 

All the same, he was anxious, and felt relieved 
when Jum made his appearance to inform him that 
Melicent was quite well. It v/as Sunday, and the 
boy was dressed in his best to go to church, where 
he sang in the choir. On the way hither he had 
slipped in to calm the barrister's mind, knowing 
that he would be anxious. But there was another 

218 



DIPLOMACY. 219 

thing which incited the lad to call, and that had to 
do with Mrs. Frint. 

" She's gone," said Jum, with his lip quivering and 
his eyes filled with tears, when Darch asked after the 
housekeeper. 

" Gone ! " remembering how Melicent had insisted 
upon the woman remaining, it seemed impossible 
that Hurst could have forced her to go. But it 
appeared that he had compelled her departure, and 
was evidently a bolder scoundrel than Darch had 
given him credit for being. " I didn't think, 
he would have gone so far as that," said the lawyer 
with dismay. 

Jum dried his eyes, with a gorgeous red silk 
handkerchief. " Mrs. Print's my aunt, sir," he said, 
unexpectedly. 

" Your aunt, boy." This was a revelation to 
Darch, who had always thought that the page was 
a mere gutter-snipe, without education, money, 
home or friends. 

Jum nodded. " I never said anything about it 
before, sir, as my aunt thought it wasn't any one's 
business but hers and mine. My mother, her 
sister, sir, was born here, but went up to service in 
London. She married my father, who was a coach- 
man, and afterwards he drove a cab. But when I 
was born, father took to drink, and died, leaving my 
mother with no money. She went out as a cook, 
sir, and worked hard for years. Then she died and 
I was left all alone without any one to look after me. 
I starved, and slept an3Awhere, and got to sell 
papers, and run errands. Then my aunt came to 
town and called at the place in Camden Town 
where we used to live. She managed to trace me and 
brought me down to be a page. The Squire knew 
that she was my aunt, and so he allowed her to have 
me in the house." 



220 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" And Mr. Hurst — did he know ? " 

" Yes ! " Jum stole a searching glance at the 
speaker. " You don't know him." 

"I am beginning to know him," said Miles 
grimly. 

" You don't know him," repeated the boy. 
" You remember that image Nebuchadnezzar 
dreamed about, sir ? " ^ 

" The one with the feet of clay ? " 

" And the head of gold," said Jum rapidly. 
" That's like Mr. Hurst." 

" More clay than gold about him, Jum, I'm'afraid." 

" He's a strange mixture," said Jum in his old- 
fashioned way. " Good and bad and bad and good. 
If you knew — well, sir, I don't want to say anything 
against him, as he has been very kind to me. And 
yet " He hesitated. 

" If you know anything about him that I should 
know, Jum, you must tell me." 

" I'll do that, sir. After all, I owe more to miy 
aunt than to him. And he had no right to turn her 
out of a place where she has been these forty years." 

" When did she go ? " 

" Last night at eight o'clock. Mr. Ralph drove 
her himself to the Brant station in the motor." 

" Why not to Serbery ? That is the usual way we 
all go to town." 

" I don't know, sir. He took her to Brant with 
her bag, saying that he would send on her luggage 
when she wrote about her address in London. 
Miss Melicent insisted that my aunt should remain, 
but Mr. Hurst would make her go." 

" Did Mrs. Frint go willingly ? " 

" No, she didn't, sir. And I'm sure that if she 
had fought, with Miss Melicent to back her, that 
Mr. Hurst would have had to give way. But she 
only wept and said that she had to obey Mr. Hurst." 



DIPLOMACY. 221 

" Why had she to obey him ? " 

" I don't know." Juin spoke through his clenched 
teeth, and his young face grew dark. " But I'll 
pay him out for treating my aunt so. Kind as 
he has been to me, she has been kinder. And I 
know a thing or two, which Mr. Ralph wouldn't 
like known." 

" Tell me, Jum." Darch spoke sharply. 

The boy retreated towards the door. " It isn't 
yet time," he said quickly. " But you'll know soon 
enough." 

" Know what ? " 

" Wliat kind of man Mr. Ralph really is." 

Darch would have asked further questions, but 
Jum vanished in his usual rapid way, and was out of 
the house before Miles could lay hold of him. The 
boy evidently knew something of moment, since he 
was in the confidence of Mrs. Frint, who was well 
acquainted with Hurst and his doings. Miles, 
wishing he could force the boy to be frank, went 
to see Toby and tell him of the conversation. The 
doctor was just getting ready to see a patient some 
ten miles away, and had little time to spare. Darch 
caught him in the yard, stepping into the motor. 
Insisting upon his waiting for a few minutes, he 
related what he had heard from the page. 

" Wliat do you think, Toby ? " 

" I think you had better leave Jum to tell what 
he knows in his own good time," answered the doctor, 
drawing on his gloves. " I am as anxious to get 
at the truth about Hurst as you are. Miles, on 
account of Sylvia. But Jum is evidently divided 
in his allegiance. He loves his aunt and he is grateful 
to Hurst. Let the boy alone. Miles. If you try to 
force his confidence he may run away to his aunt in 
London, and then we'll lose the only two people who 
know the truth about this blackguard." 



222 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Well, perhaps you are right," admitted Darch 
pondering. " After all, Jum is a sharp lad, and has 
the sense of a man. But I rather think he inclines 
more to his aunt than to Hurst, so in the long run 
he'll side with her. Then he'll let out all he knows." 

" That won't be pleasant for Hurst," said Toby 
vindictively. " There will be trouble when his 
Bluebeard's chamber is opened. Jum has the key." 

" So has Mrs. Frint, if we could only find her." 

" Oh, you'll find her. Miles ! She'll write to Jum 
when she's settled in London. Then I'll see her 
myself and learn, if possible, what means Hurst 
took to force Lady Gibson into agreeing to his 
marriage with Sylvia." 

" Has Sylvia written to you, Toby ? " 

" No. I have received no letter since that one 
saying she intended to throw me over and marry this 
blackguard." 

" What does your uncle say ? " 

" Nothing, except — ^wait. He believes that this 
forced marriage has to do with Mam'zel Clarice and 
with the murcler of the Squire." 

Darch uttered an exclamation. *' Does your 
uncle think that Hurst is an accessory before the 
fact ? " 

" He won't say. Uncle George is too cautious to 
say much. But I think he has his suspicions. He's 
gone to Paris." 

"Why? " 

"To see the French secret police people and 
learn all he can about Mam'zel Clarice. Also, 
incidentally, he wishes to make cautious inquiries 
about Lady Gibson's secret." 

" Oh, that idea of his that the French police 
know it, is very far-fetched." 

" It may be," replied Toby gloomily, and stepping 
into the car. " Anyhow, Uncle George will learn 



DIPLOMACY. 223 

all he can about this woman, and one thing may lead 
to another. You never know. The old man's as bent 
as I am upon saving Sylvia from this scoundrel." 

Toby drove away to see his patient, as the church 
bells stopped ringing for the morning service. Darch 
returned to the house, and was half-minded to go 
over to the Hall and see Melicent, so as to learn 
exactly what had taken place in connection with the 
departure of Mrs. Frint. But knowing that Melicent 
made a point of going to church, especially since 
the death of her father, and not being anxious for 
an interview with Hurst, he decided to Vv-ait until 
the afternoon. Then the unexpected happened, for 
half an hour later, when Miles was pottering about 
the garden, Hurst himself made his appearance. He 
looked big and bluff, as usual ; but his bland, kindly 
air had given place to an arrogant demeanour, 
v.'hich was highly unpleasant. Since his brother's 
death it was remarkable to see the change in the 
man. Formerly a gentle old book worm, loved by 
all because of his sweet disposition, he had become 
an overbearing man of the world, imperious and 
dominating. 

" I wish to have a few words with you, Darch," 
he said, pushing open the gate in an aggressive 
way. " We must understand one another." 

" I quite agree with you," retorted the barrister, 
wondering why the visit was paid, and resolving 
to make the best use of the opportunity. " Come 
inside. I am at your disposal for as long as you 
like." 

" Oh, a quarter of an hour will do. Miles," said 
Hurst, with a touch of his old kindly way, which 
somehow made him more objectionable than ever. 

They entered the sitting-room, through the 
French window, and Hurst sat down in a comfort- 
able arm-chair with his back to the light. He 



224 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

produced a cigar-case, and offered it to his host, 
who had taken a seat opposite to him. The offer 
was dechned, whereat Ralph laughed genially, and 
lighted a cigar on his own account. 

" You won't accept the modern equivalent for 
bread and salt from me." 

" Well, no," said Darch very directly. " I don't 
trust you." 

" May I ask why ? " Hurst smoked in quite a 
composed manner, and evidently had himself well 
in hand. 

" Ask yourself. Remember the scene yesterday 
in the Sanctuary when you threatened to turn out 
Mrs. Frint in a most brutal manner." 

" I have turned her out." 

" So Jum came over and told me." 

Hurst's face grew dark and his eyes narrowed. " If 
that brat comes here telling 3^ou what goes on in my 
house, he'll go too." 

" Pardon me, the Hall is not your house," retorted 
Miles spiritedly. 

" For the time being it is. I am Melicent's 
guardian for the next few weeks ; and until I hand 
over the property I am the master of the Hall." 

" I disagree with you. You had no right to 
dismiss Mrs. Frint." 

"Oh, I think I had. The woman was poisoning 
my niece's ears, and such treacherous conduct 
requires to be punished. You need not worry your 
mind over what you call my brutality, Darch. I 
drove Mrs. Frint to Brant last night, and she went 
away to London with a good sum of money in her 
pocket. I have advised Melicent to pension her, 
so she will be quite comfortable." 

" When Melicent is mistress of the Hall, she will 
ask her to come back." 

" Qhj well ! " — Ralph made a sign to express his 



DIPLOMACY. 225 

indifference — " she can do as she likes when she is 
mistress. I have done my best for her, and if she 
chooses to beHeve Mrs. Print's Hes, there is nothing 
more to be said." 

" That depends upon the Hes," said Darch coolly. 

" What do you mean ? " Hurst bent his brows 
and looked larger and more imposing than ever. 
But this frog-in-the-fable swelling had no effect 
on Miles. 

; "I mean that you are afraid of Mrs. Frint, else you 
wouldn't have discharged her, as you have done." 

" I have explained why I sent her away," said 
Hurst coldly, " and she went away comfortably. 
As to being afraid of her, why should I be ? " 

" You know best, Hurst." 

" Pooh ! Pooh ! You are talking nonsense." 

" You know best," repeated Miles, keeping his 
eyes on the big red face. It did not change either 
in expression or colour. 

" It seems to me, Darch, that you mistrust 
me," said the man deliberately, " and my reason 
for coming to see you is to ask why ? Is there 
anything in my conduct towards my niece which 
you condemn ? " 

" On the face of it, no." 

" Then why condemn me ? " asked Ralph, very 
naturally, and feeling that he had decidedly scored 
a point. 

" I put in the saving clause, ' on the face of it,' " 
retorted Darch with emphasis. " Mrs. Frint hinted 
that those accidents were not accidents." 

" Quite so, and for saying that I discharged her," 
replied the visitor with great calmness. " How do 
you make them out to be other than accidents, I 
should like to know." 

" I admit the difficulty of showing that they were 

arranged accidents " 

P 



226 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Hurst started to his feet indignantly, and his face 
became black with rage as he spoke vehemently. 
" How dare you say that ? " 

" I dare a great deal in Melicent's interests," said 
Miles dryly. " You may as well sit down and 
listen. Hurst. Let us have it out as man to man." 

" Good ! " The visitor resumed his seat and 
relighted his cigar, which had gone out. " I am 
ready to listen, but I warn you that if you attempt 
to take away my character I shall defend myself." 

" You have every right to do so." 

" As to the accidents," fumed Hurst, still irritated 
by the lawyer's veiled accusation. " You know 
perfectly well that they were genuine enough. That 
brat of a boy let fall some of the peas he was using 
for his pea-shooter on the stairs, and Melicent 
slipped on them. I was very angry with Jum 
about the matter, and it was my niece herself who 
begged me not to send him back to London. Am I 
therefore responsible for that accident ? " 

" On the face of it, no," said Miles again, and 
listening intently. 

" Then the other." Hurst wiped his red face 
hastily. " I warned Melicent not to sit under that 
elm tree. You were there yourself when I did, 
and I asked your opinion about the same. She 
would sit there, and a bough fell as I thought it 
might. I was away at the vicarage when Melicent 
went to sit there, and only returned somewhere 
about the moment it fell. Did I ask her to sit under 
the elm at that moment ? Did I make the bough 
fall ? " 

" On the face of it, no," said Darch for the 
third time. 

" Explain your meaning of ' on the face of it ' ? " 

" I can't. All I can say is that it was strange two 
accidents should have come to pass so quicldy." 



DIPLOMACY. 227 

" Well, then, your ' on the face of it ' really means 
that in some way, which you can't explain, I brought 
about those accidents ? " 

" Yes. That is my meaning." Darch was quite 
calm as he spoke. 

" Oh ! " — Hurst grew derisive — " then you think 
that I wish to kill my niece ? " 

" I don't say that," answered the young man 
cautiously, " but 3'ou are the next heir to the 
estate." 

" I see," said the visitor dryly. " What a iine 
opinion you have of me." 

" Can I have a good one of the man who is forcing 
Sylvia Gibson into a hateful marriage by coercing 
her mother." 

" Coercing her mother," repeated Hurst with a 
start. " In what way ? " 

"Ah, I don't know ! But Lad}^ Gibson would 
certainly prefer her daughter to marry Constantinc 
Tahinos rather than you." 

" You think so," said Ralph composedly. " W'cll, 
then, I shall give you an opportunity of asking 
Lady Gibson's opinion on that point. In two days 
she and Sylvia are coming down here to stay. Come 
over some evening and ask." 

" Thank you." Darch promptly accepted the 
invitation. " I shall be delighted to do so. So 
Sylvia marries you for love, since you are not 
coercing her mother, and through her mother, S3^1via 
herself ? " 

" I don't say that." 

" Then Syh'ia marries you for your money, when 
you have only seven hundred a year, as you told 
me yourself in the Hall library ? 

" I don't say that either." 

" What do you say, then ? " 

" Nothing. I shall leave Lady Gibson and her 



228 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

daughter to explain. And I may as well tell you 
that when I make Sylvia my wife, we are going to 
America." 

" Indeed." 

" Yes, indeed. In a week I marry Sylvia by 
special licence. Then I shall surrender my office as 
guardian to Melicent, since you seem to think that 
I fill it so badly. She will have her property and her 
money, which you think I covet . Then she can marry 
you, and never trouble about me again." 

" I see. So that's the situation, is it ? " 

" Can you ask for a better one ? " demanded 
Hurst, heaving his huge bulk out of the deep chair. 
" It seems to me, Darch, that I have answered all 
your questions fairly and honestly. Now " — ^he 
raised a big hand with a contemptuous smile — 
" don't say ' on the face of it ' again." 

" I am not going to." 

" Because you can't. Can you prove that I 
engineered those accidents, as you implied that I 
did ? Can you say that I have treated my niece 
badly in any way ? Have I denied her liberty, 
or money, or anything she wanted ? Is she starved ? 
Has she been ill-treated ? Has she a word to say 
against me, save that I went against her wishes 
in discharging that old hag, who was talking in the 
same silly way as you are doing ? Answer me, 
Darch ? " 

" I can't. All you say is quite correct." 

" Then why mistrust me ? " 

Miles leaned against the mantelpiece with his 
hands in his pockets and pondered. " Upon my 
word, I can't say why I mistrust you," he said 
frankly and smilingly, " but I do." 

" You do ? " 

" Yes ! " 

" On what grounds, seeing that I have cleared 



DIPLOMACY. 229 

myself of everything save that I was rather bad- 
tempered yesterday ? " 

" I can't say." 

" You are unjust. I have shown you that I have 
done my best for my niece, that by going to America 
I do not want her money. That by approving of 
your marriage I wish her to be happy. What more in 
heaven's name do you want me to tell you to prove 
my good faith ? " 

" I don't want you to tell me anything," said 
Miles, with a shrug. " All you have told me has 
been told of your own free will. I am not your 
judge." 

" But by spreading false reports about me, you 
will make other people my judge," said Ralph hotly. 
" You are unjust." 

" I don't intend to spread any reports. Hurst. 
What I think, I think, but I don't impart to any one 
else what I do think." 

The visitor heaved a sigh of relief and stepped out 
of the window to walk towards the gate and depart. 
As Darch followed him, he turned. " You will come 
to dinner and meet Lady Gibson and Sylvia ? " 

" Oh, yes, with pleasure ! After all, the Hall is 
Melicent's house, and the food is her food." 

" I see. Shake hands." 

" Thank you, no. We are not friends." 

" Then let us be enemies," said Hurst, with a roar, 
and strode away, furiously. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

A SURPRISE. 

ETWEEN the time of Ralph's unexpected visit 
and the evening of the invitation to dinner, 
Darch discussed the conversation frequently 
with his medical friend. With the exception of the 
scheme to marry Sylvia against her will, Smith 
thought that Hurst had cleared his character. 
Miles did not agree with him. 

" Why was there need for Hurst to come here 
and clear his character ? " he asked. " What I 
thought, or did not think, didn't matter to him." 

" Well, I don't know so much about that. You are 
to marry his niece." 

" Quite so. But Ralph's character in the village 
is so high, and he is so carefully affectionate to his 
niece, that anything I could say wouldn't matter 
very much. Unless " 

" Unless what ? " asked Toby moodily. He was 
not particularly interested in the discussion, .since 
his thoughts were concerning themselves witli 
Sylvia's visit to the Hall. 

" Now you come to the point," said Miles, with a 
brisk nod, " unless Hurst is really the devil I believe 
him to be. If so, he daren't risk the . slightest 
whisper against him, for if suspicion was once 
aroused, things might come out to incriminate him." 

230 



A SURPRISE. 231 

" In what ? " Toby sat up to answer. " You 
can't bring the accidents home to hnn, and, much 
as I dishke the man, I think they were accidents." 

" I don't," retorted Darch stubbornly. " He 
has been clever enough to engineer them deftl}^, 
but they were designed accidents all the same." 

" Tliinking that, I wonder you allow Melicent to 
stay at the Hall." 

" Oh, she is all right now ! Hurst, knowing that 
I doubt him, won't dare to tamper any longer with 
Melicent's life. I have seen her three or four times 
since that scene in the Sanctuary, and she says that 
Ralph is treating her with every consideration." 

" I thought she feared him ? " 

" She did when in London, owing to his forcing 
Sylvia into this marriage, as she thought that by 
doing so he was a bad man. But he is behaving 
so well now that she has ceased to fear him." 

" But ]Mrs. Print's warning, and the warning of 
]\Iam'zcl Clarice, if it was her ? " 

" Those warnings have got ]\Ielicent's back up. 
She fears danger always, but now that she knows 
danger may come, she is bold enougli to face it." 

" Then she is not on her old friendly terms with 
our friend ? " 

" Oh, yes — outwardly," said Darch in a meaning 
way. " He is behaving scrupulously well, as I say, 
and Melicent takes him at his own valuation. All 
the same, she is on her guard against him and his 
doings." 

" But why docs she think he is dangerous, and 
why do you think the same ? There is no proof, 
since Hurst explained the position clearly enough 
when he came here. If he really had been plotting 
Melicent's death, as Mrs. Print implies, he certainly 
would not surrender everything at the eleventh hour 
and sneak off to America." 



232 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

"That's just it. You've hit it," said Miles 
emphatically. " Hurst is very much afraid. It was 
fear that made him dismiss Mrs. Frint, lest she 
should say too much, and it was fear that brought 
him over here to explain things and close my mouth. 
He sighed with relief when I said that I would say 
nothing, Toby. Depend upon it that, cleverly as he 
has masked his doings, there is something behind all 
this diplomacy which means danger to our friend, 
should it be discovered." 

" I wish it would be discovered, so that Sylvia 
could get away from him. I'll see if I can get her to 
tell me the truth to-night." 

" What ! " — Darch looked surprised — " are you 
going to the dinner also ? " 

" Yes. Hurst sent a note to me this morning 
asking me to come. Of course, I know he means to 
gloat over my misery and rack my feelings by 
bringing me into Sylvia's company, but I accepted 
his invitation." 

" I wonder why it was given," mused Darch. 

" I have told you," said Toby impatiently^ " He 
wants me to see what I have lost ; to rub it in, as you 
might say." 

" Would he do such a trivial thing as that ? " 

" The Lord knows what he would do or would not 
do, if the fancy took him. I hate the beast, and 
wish he was in jail or on the gallows. All the 
same, I can't see that you have any proof against 
him to show that he is other than he has always 
been." 

" I think Jum could tell a tale of his doings in 
town," said Miles, with a shrug ; " doings that would 
not be to his credit." 

" Pooh ! Women and wine and cards. Those are 
minor sins always condoned by society. Hurst is 
only sowing a second crop of wild oats," 



A SURPRISE. 233 

" Or a crop of hemp out of which will be made the 
rope to hang him." 

" I say ! I say ! don't go too far, old son. You 
have no proof that he has done anything criminal. 
He was away from home when his brother was 
murdered, and in any case didn't benefit by the 
death. So there's no motive to " 

" I know ; I know," broke in the barrister im- 
patiently. " Ralph is all right so far as we can 
see, save in his forcing of this marriage. But T tell 
you, Toby, that I mistrust the man, and that some 
day we'll find things out which will startle every 
one." 

" No evidence." Toby shook his head. " As a 
lawyer, you should know that evidence is required 
before you can condemn a man." 

" I know that. All the same, well, it is useless to 
talk in a circle. But mark my words, Toby, there's 
more behind all this than meets the eye," and this 
conversation between the two ended as other 
conversations had ended, in no conclusion being 
arrived at. 

Of course Darch knew that his friend was right. 
Hurst had exonerated himself, and if all his actions 
save that which had to do with Sylvia were made 
public, no one could say a word against him. It was 
wholly impossible to prove that the accidents were 
designed, and the dismissal of Mrs. Print was natural 
enough, seeing that she was maligning her employer. 
It seemed to Darch that the sole method to get at 
the man in some tangible way was to find out the 
secret which he used to compel Lady Gibson to con- 
sent to his marriage with her daughter. But Uncle 
George, in Paris, was doing his best to discover that, 
so there was nothing to be done in that direction by 
Darch himself. Of course, Sylvia might say some- 
thing, or Lady Gibson might drop a hint ; but this 



234 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

was unlikely seeing how completely they were under 
Hurst's big thumb. 

However, Miles and Toby went to the dinner in a 
fairly cheerful frame of mind. Toby, because he 
would be able to speak to Sylvia, and perhaps rescue 
her from this hateful marriage at the eleventh hour ; 
and Miles, because he had Ralph's own word for it 
that he v/as throv/ing up the sponge. Within a 
week or a fortnight at the latest the man would be 
on his way to the States, and then Melicent would 
be her own mistress. That meant a speedy mar- 
riage, for Miles resolved to induce her, if possible, to 
become his wife straight away, in spite of her 
mourning. And he really believed that she would 
consent, since she was growing weary of constant 
trouble. Her wedding would mean that a new leaf 
had been turned over, and that there would be no 
more sensational happenings. 

Ralph, arrayed in purple and fine linen, and so 
smartly dressed that he presented a great contrast 
to his former untidy self, received his guests with 
boisterous genialit}^ His ruddy face glowed with 
pleasure, his eyes sparkled with kindness, and;he 
played the part of a hospitable host to perfection. 
Lady Gibson, looking pale and v^'orn, quite a shadow 
of the old daj^s, but nearly as voluble, received both 
the young men kindly. She seemed to have got 
over her dislike for Smith, and saw him advancing 
towards Sylvia without displaying an;/ irritation. 
Sylvia turned a shade paler, as Toby took her hand, 
and glanced in a reproachful way at her promised 
husband. She evidently meant to show her annoy- 
ance at this uncalled for pain v/hich he was inflicting. 
But Hurst smiled all over his big face and accentu- 
ated the sufferings of the girl, and indeed of Toby 
himself. 

" Svlvia looks well, doesn't she, doctor ? " he said, 



A SURPRISE. 235 

slapping the young man on the back ; " quite the 
happy bride that is to be." 

Smith winced and shot a look at his tormentor, 
which absolutely hinted at murder, while Sylvia, 
with an artificial laugh to cover her pain and shame, 
retreated to the sofa. Ralph's coarse joke offended 
both her mother and herself, although they did not 
dare to show their displeasure. It was evident to 
Darch's observant eye that both women were terri- 
fied of their host, and he wondered for the hundredth 
time what the secret might be. It was just when 
he reached this point of his reflections that Mclicent 
came into the room. She had not been there when 
the young men arrived, and only hurried in when 
dinner was being announced. She looked quite 
bright and unafraid, running to Miles to kiss him 
and to tell him exciting news. 

" After dinner we must go into the Sanctuary," 
she said, taking both his hands. " There is a sur- 
prise for you there." 

" Has Hecate tumbled down ? " 

" No ; but she has opened her hand." 

All save Hurst, who knew this, exclaimed. "It 
really must be some trick," said Ladj^ Gibson, 
fanning herself. " A statue can't open and shut its 
hand in so human a way. Ridiculous ! " 

" Ridiculous or not," said Hurst, beaming. " It 
is as Melicent says. Two or three days ago we found 
the hand had opened. I didn't want it known all 
over the village, as there has been quite enough 
talk about our family affairs as it is. Therefore, I 
ordered Mclicent not to say anything until now." 

" But why do you give her permission now ? " 
asked Darch, wondering what this new miracle 
portended. 

Ralph shrugged his huge shoulders. " It's bound 
to become known sooner or later, so I allowed 



236 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Melicent to speak, thinking it might be a pleasant 
surprise to you, Darch." 

" Why a pleasant surprise ? " 

" Oh, Miles, can't you see ? " cried Melicent petu- 
lantly. " The opening of the hand means that good 
luck has returned to the family. All our troubles 
are over, and now things will be all right." 

" And how delightful that will be," said Lady 
Gibson, shiiigging in her turn and raising her lorg- 
nette to stare at the host. " How thankful we must 
be to the person who has put them right." 

Ralph looked at her, still smiling, so markedly 
indeed, that the frivolous little woman shuddered 
and turned pale under her rouge. Sylvia, standing 
near, took her mother's hand as if to reassure her, 
and met Hurst's gaze with haughty defiance. He 
continued to smile, and rubbed his hands. " Lady 
Gibson pays me a great compliment in saying that 
I have put things right. I hope I have. And cer- 
tainly it is within my power to put them right now 
by saying that dinner is ready. You must be all 
hungry, Lady Gibson," 

He offered his arm, which she took with a nervous 
giggle, striving, as Miles saw, to suppress her dislike 
at having to take it. Darch himself took in Mehcent, 
and the doctor accompanied Sylvia. As the host 
was engaged to the girl, he should have been her 
companion, but it was evident that he allowed Toby 
to be so in order that Sylvia might feel awkward. If 
she did, she concealed her feelings very well and, 
coldly smiling, took her seat at the table. Tob}^ 
knowing how she suffered, cursed Hurst under his 
breath, but for the sake of appearances managed to 
look agreeable. And Melicent was so bright that 
she seemed unnaturally lively. In fact, Darch 
thought that every one present was playing a part, 
and he was quite sure that whatever the others felt, 



A SURPRISE. 237 

Ralph's part was the most difficult to sustain. To 
his mind there was something gruesome about the 
whole affair. 

The meal was ever^^thing that could be desired 
in the way of luxury and refinement. The table 
was beautifully decorated ; the food was excellent ; 
the wines were perfect, and nothing that money 
could do, or taste could supply, was wanting. Ralph 
was an attentive host, and kept everything going and 
every one amused — so far as they could be amused 
with their various preoccupations — with his con- 
versation. From jokes he came to information about 
the village and the family. 

" Take the name Grenacer," he said expansivel3^ 
" Gren comes from the Anglo-Saxon grene^ which 
means the colour of grass " 

" Green, I suppose," said Darch dryly. 

" Exactly ; Grcn means green. Acer is pure 
Anglo-Saxon." 

" Meaning acre, which is very apparent," said 
Darch again dryly, for it seemed to him that Hurst 
was talking about nothing. 

" Quite so. Grenacer, therefore, means Green- 
acre, and doubtless the name was given to the village 
because of the emerald hue of the site upon which 
it is built. Also the River Gren really is green 
at times." 

" Or it flows through green banks," volunteered 
Toby with a shrug. 

" Ah, yes ! Perhaps that miglit be the origin of 
the name. But take our family name. Hurst, 
Anglo-Saxon for a wood. Thorswud means the 
wood of Thor, the Norse Thunder god. So our family 
name and the wood which surrounds the Sanctuary 
are closely connected. Very interesting, I think." 

Darch assented, but to show that he did not wish 
for unnecessary information, turned to Melicent : 



23S THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Why isn't Jiim here, as usual ? " 

'' Oh, Jum has gone," she said hurriedly, and 
glanced at her uncle. 

" Yes," said Ralph, having overheard the 
question and the reply. " I turned Jum away this 
afternoon, after giving him a good thrashing." 

" Why was that ? " demanded Miles indignantly. 

" He has been behaving badly. I need not tell 
you in what way. The example of Mrs. Frint has 
spoiled the boy. I did my best for him, but it has 
proved to be useless. I wash my hands of Jum. 
He can now return to his original name of Frederick 
Marr and go back to his street -life in London." 

" Oh, uncle, how can you talk in that way ? 
Think of how Jum saved my life." 

" Well, Melicent, shortly you will be your own 
mistress, and then you can call back both these 
servants whom I have discharged. I think j^ou will 
be acting very wrongl3^ as neither of them is to be 
trusted." 

" I should trust Mrs. Frint and Jiun anywhere," 
said Melicent firmly. " And I shall certainly ask 
them to return when you go. Uncle Ralph, But I 
am thinking of poor Jum in the meantime, alone in 
London." 

" Oh, he'll go to Mrs. Frint, his aunt," observed 
Miles abruptly. 

" Aunt ! " Melicent looked amazed. " Do 3'ou 
mean to say that Jum is Mrs. Frint 's nephew ? " 

" Yes ; he told me so. Did ^^ou know, Mr. 
Hurst ? " 

Darch asked this question as he saw that the big 
man — as he thought — was plainly taken aback by 
surprise. Evidently neither Mrs. Frint nor Jum 
had revealed their relationship to him. Then all at 
once Miles began to laugh as he remembered that 
Hurst did know. Jum had confessed as much. 



A SURPRISE. 239 

Ralph pounced on him. " Why do you laugh ? " he 
asked softly, b\it with an evil glance. 

" I was thinking that you did not know about the 
relationship, but I remember Jum told me you did 
know." 

" Yes, I knew, and so did my brother. But for 
the relationship we should not have allowed that 
little street arab to stay here. As it is, he has proved 
very ungrateful, just like his aunt. It's in the 
family, I suppose. By the way, has Print written 
to you, Melicent ? " 

" No ; I have had no word. Do you know where 
she is, Uncle Ralph ? " 

" In London somewhere. She will write for her 
boxes when she is settled, no doubt. But all this," 
Hurst looked blandly round the table, " must be 
very dull conversation for our visitors. And as the 
dinner is ended, I propose that the ladies retire 
to the drawing-room, where we will join them 
shortly." 

The ladies did retire, Melicent rather indignantl}', 
as she should have been permitted, as the hostess, 
to give the signal. But on this evening her uncle 
seemed to be bent upon exercising his authority even 
in trifles. Also, with all his attempts to make him- 
self agreeable, there was something sinister about 
his behaviour. Lady Gibson broke down when they 
reached the drawing-room, and Sylvia led her to the 
sofa to comfort her. 

" Don't, mother," she whispered ; " you have 
borne up so W(;ll. Don't give way now, or he will 
be displeased." 

" I can't bear it any longer," wailed Lady Gibson, 
sobbing. " I wish I was dead and buried." 

" Does Uncle Ralph make you wish that ? " asked 
Melicent curiously, for she hoped to force Lady 
Gibson's confidence and get at the truth. 



240 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Your uncle is a devil in man's shape," said the 
woman fiercely. 

" Mother ! mother ! " Sylvia tried to soothe her, 
" That's dangerous." 

" Not with me," said Melicent, who was rather 
pale. " I don't love Uncle Ralph as I used to do, 
and I think he's a bad man. Why do you marry 
him instead of Toby ? And why do you let her, 
Lady Gibson ? " 

" Because I can't help it." Lady Gibson dried her 
ej^es and became more composed. " I wish, with 
all my heart, Sylvia could marry Dr. Smith,' much as 
I used to dislike him. But he would be better than 
your uncle. Oh, how terrible things are now ! " 

" They will be all right soon," said Melicent con- 
fidently. " The hand of Hecate has opened." 

" Oh, that's rubbish," said Lady Gibson tartl3^ 
" And even if it is, how can it help us ? 

" As Sylvia is going to marry Uncle Ralph, and he 
is a Hurst, the statue must help her in some way," 
insisted Melicent, who was not to be argued out of 
her favourite superstition. " We've had a lot of 
bad luck, but now we shall have good luck." 

Sylvia, looking as white and calm and lovely as 
a marble statue, had said little, but she now glanced 
towards her friend. " I believe you are right, my 
dear. Good fortune will come to release me from 
this hateful marriage. I don't believe that God will 
permit this wicked man to triumph." 

" Oh, Sylvia, don't talk like that," said Lady 
Gibson, quite shocked and in a scared tone. " It 
sounds dreadful." 

Sylvia relapsed into silence, and as the men entered 
at the moment nothing more was said. For the 
next hour Ralph took command of things as usual. 
He made Sylvia play, which she did brilliantly, 
but unemotionally, not venturing to object. He 



A SURPRISE. 241 

induced Melicent to sing, and got Dr. Smith to 
recite, knowing that his rival had some small talent 
in this way. Also Hurst sang himself in a big, 
booming voice, which sounded like the bell of St. 
Paul's. Only Lad}^ Gibson and Darch refused to 
contribute to the entertainment, which, for want 
of heart on the part of the performers, was extremely 
miserable. But every one save Darch seemed to be 
hypnotised by the immense energy and dominating 
spirit of the host. 

" Now we'll have some bridge," he bellowed, and 
was altogether so noisy and aggressively merry that 
all present wondered if he were mad. 

Darch himself was puzzled. He could not under- 
stand all this coarse humour, nor comprehend why 
Hurst was behaving so. More than ever he felt sure 
that behind all this horseplay there was something 
terrible, which might reveal itself at any moment. 
Meanwhile, the bridge-table was set out, and with 
the others he sat down to play. He had Melicent 
for a partner. Lady Gibson had Smith, while Ralph, 
being left out for the time being, forced his odious 
attentions on Sylvia. The whole situation was 
uncomfortable, and seemed to be working up to 
some climax. That came with the entrance of Jum. 

" You ! " roared Hurst furiously, when he saw the 
boy. " Why have you come ? " 

" To bring this lady," said Jum in a loud, excited 
voice, and pointed to the door. 

Every one looked up and exclaimed. In the door- 
wav stood Mam'zel Clarice 



:q 



CHAPTER XIX. 

jum's story. 

So startling and unexpected was the appearance 
of Mam'zel Clarice that the bridge-players 
rose hastily, and in doing so upset the table. 
Sylvia remained seated where she was, but Hurst 
had stood up when Jum entered, to turn the boy out 
of the room. When the woman showed herself in 
the doorway he was stricken into stone, and halted 
with a cry. From being red his large face turned 
pale, and then became a livid grey. If ever a man 
was frightened out of his senses, Ralph was that 
rhan. Darch looked at Mam'zel Clarice and then 
at Hurst, finally at Jum, for an explanation. 

" I found her and brought her here," said Jum 
succinctly. 

Darch had no time to ask where he had found the 
woman, for at that moment Mam'zel Clarice, whose 
eyes were wandering vaguely about the room, 
caught sight of Melicent. With a wavering step 
she advanced and laid an eager finger on the 
girl's arm. 

" Go away from here," she said tremulously. 
" There is danger — danger — danger." 

" You came to my bedroom to say that," whis- 
pered Melicent, terrified by the look of the poor 
creature and the purport of her speech. 

Mam'zel Clarice paid no attention to what was 
342 



JUM'S STORY. 243 

said, but again let her eyes wander here and there. 
When they rested on Ralph she started and shivered, 
staring at him terrorstruck. On his part. Hurst 
seemed to shrink and dwindle until he became quite 
small and mean. But he said nothing, even when 
Mam'zel Clarice pointed her finger at him. 

" Danger," she said feebly. " Oh ! why did you 
read the scroll ? " and taking a step forward she 
suddenly gave a terrified scream, throwing her arms 
hastily round Dr. Smith, who happened to be near 
her. " Save me, save me, the scroll ! " Plainly she 
was distracted, if not altogether mad, and seeing 
this Ralph recovered his presence of mind. 

" You murdered my brother," he cried, in a high, 
quavering voice. -^ 

But she only shrank from him and clung the more 
to Smith, who vainly tried to disengage himself from 
her embrace. " Blood ! oh, blood ! " she moaned, 
with her terrified eyes on Ralph. " Save me ! save 
me ! " Then suddenly releasing the doctor she flung 
her arms in the air. "The scroll. Why did you read 
the scroll ? 

" She is quite mad," said Hurst, becoming more 
himself since no one could make anything of her 
disjointed ravings. 

" So it seems," said Darch dryly. " Hadn't you 
better look after her, Toby, as you arc a doctor ? " 

Before Smith could speak Ralph stepped forward. 
" I'll have her seen to," he said, and laid his hand 
on the woman's shoulder. 

As if an adder had stung her she leaped back and, 
twisting her hands in her hair, which was streaming 
down her back, she ran shrieking from the room. 
" Follow her, foUow her," cried Hurst, rushing to 
the door ; "we must learn how she murdered my 
brother." 

While Sylvia and Meliccnt ran to attend to Lady 



244 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Gibson, who had fainted owing to the terror of the 
scene, the men followed Ralph out of the room. 
Jum, who evidently knew the direction Mam'zel 
Clarice would take, led the way and sprang up the 
stairs in pursuit. The woman sped along rapidly, 
with her hair streaming and her white dressing- 
gown fluttering. Up the stairs, along the passage, 
she flew, then climbed another flight, and ran along 
another passage to disappear into a room in the 
front of the house. Ralph, who was following Jum, 
and leading Smith and the barrister, gave a gasp of 
amazement. 

" Mrs. Print's room," he said, and redoubled his 
speed. 

The three entered the room, Jum having arrived 
before them, to find Mam'zel Clarice rolling on the 
bed with the clothes over her head. There was not 
the least doubt but what she was crazy, for when the 
boy pulled down the bed-quilt, she uttered loud cries 
of terror. Smith saw at a glance, from his medical 
knowledge, what was to be done, and turned to 
Hurst. 

" You and Miles go downstairs," he said roughly. 
" You can't do any good here. Send up Melicent 
and two of the maidservants. I'll keep Jum here 
and scribble a note which he can take to my place. 
There are certain drugs I require to calm her and 
send her to sleep. Quick ! quick ! There's no time 
to be lost." 

"But I want to know," began Hurst nervously, 
only to be cut short by the young doctor, who was 
quite master of the situation. 

" You'll know soon enough. Do what I tell 3'ou, 
or I won't be answerable for the consequences." 

" One word only, doctor. Is she mad ? " 

" Quite mad," said Smith ; " there, that's enough. 
Go!" 



JUM'S STORY. 245 

Darch and his host went rapidly down again, and 
Hurst sent for the two servants who were required. 
They came hastily, and he told them to go up to 
Mrs. Print's room at the top of the house. Puzzled 
to know why they should, the girls went willingly 
enough, as much out of curiosity as obedience, for 
the cries of Mam'zel Clarice had been heard in the 
kitchen. Just as they disappeared up the stairs 
Jum came tearing down with a loose sheet of paper 
in his hand. Darch laid hold of him as he fled 
past them. 

" Give that to one of the grooms," he said sharpl}'. 
" He can take it over." 

" The doctor said I was to go. It's to get medi- 
cine," panted the boy, struggling to get free. 

" I know. Hurst, get a groom to take it." He 
plucked the paper from Jum's fingers and passed it 
to Ralph. " ril send up Melicent, and take Jum 
to the library. We must have a thorough explana- 
tion of this." 

Jum yielded sullenly, overwhelmed by Darch's 
tone of autliority, and Hurst, obedient also for once 
in his life, went to give the necessary orders. Miles 
took Jum by the arm and dragged him into the 
drawing-room, as he wished to see Melicent without 
losing sight of the boy. Ladj- Gibson had revived, 
and was sitting up in her daughter's arms, while 
Melicent stood beside her holding a smelling-bottle. 
" What has happened ? oh, what has happened ? " 
cried Lady Gibson when Darch and the boy appeared. 
" Wliere is that dreadful creature ? " 

" Upstairs in Mrs. Print's room," said the young 
man abruptly. " Melicent, go up there and put 
yourself under the doctor's orders. And keep the 
maidservants who are there from making trouble 
We want this business kept as quiet as possible for 
the present." 



246 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" We'll be all murdered in our beds/' wailed Lady 
Gibson, who was terrified and unstrung. 

"It's all right," said Darch soothingi3^ "The 
poor creature is being looked after, and Smith will 
give her something to make her sleep. Do go, 
Melicent. Why are you waiting ? " 

" Lady Gibson," faltered the girl. 

" Sylvia can do what is wanted. Go," said Darch, 
and said it so sharply that Melicent dropped the 
smelling-bottle and fled without a word. 

" rn attend to my mother," said Sylvia, who was 
quite composed. " Mother, let me put you to bed. 
There is quite enough trouble without your making 
anymore. Come to bed." 

" But I want to know where that dreadful woman 
came from ? " 

" That is what Jum is going to tell me," said 
Darch firmly, and led the boy out of the room, while 
Lady Gibson wailed and protested and fought against 
Sylvia's entreaties that she should retire to rest. 

When Darch and Jum entered the library Ralph 
was already there. By a great effort of will, he had 
regained command over his nerves but was evidently 
considerably shaken by the late scene. He was 
seated in a chair wiping the perspiration from his 
white face when the barrister entered with his cap- 
tive, and jumped up in terror when he saw them. 
Miles quite expected this exhibition of fear, and 
smiled sarcasticahy as he closed the door. Jum 
kept close to his side and well out of Ralph's reach. 
He still remembered his thrashing, and was not going 
to risk another. 

" It's all right. Hurst," said the lawyer, " there is 
no occasion for you to be afraid — as yet," and he 
laid emphasis on the last two words. 

" There's no occasion for me to be afraid at all," 
said Hurst, with an air of bravado, and again wiping 



JUM'S STORY. 247 

his face as he resumed his seat. " I don't know 
what j'ou mean." 

" I mean that Mam'zel Clarice seemed to be afraid 
of 3' oil." 

" She has every reason to be. I'll have her hanged 
for the murder of my brother, as sure as my name is 
Ralph Hurst." 

" I don't think the poor wretch is in a fit state 
either to be hanged or even tried for her life. She 
is mad. Any one can see that." 

" She has lost her memory," said Jum unex- 
pectedly, and with his eyes fixed on Hurst's pale face. 

" Has she forgotten that she stabbed my brother ?" 
asked the man ironically. 

" She's forgotten everything," retorted the bo}' 
positively. " All she keeps on saying is about 
danger and Miss Melicent leaving the place, and also 
talks about some scroll she says you read and 
shouldn't have read." 

" MTiat scroll ? " 

" I don't know," replied Jum indifferent I3-. 
" That's what she says." 

" Then she's mad. I don't know of any scroll, 
and I don't know either why she should advise my 
niece to leave the Hall." 

" She says there is danger." 

" And so there is while she is here — a criminal — 
a murderess." 

" We don't know that yet," put in Miles smoothly, 
" She has made no confession as yet. And she isn't 
in a state to make any." 

" I don't think a confession is needed," answered 
Hurst vigorously. " The verdict of the jury, given 
on all available evidence, is sufficient to hang her." 

" Not without a trial, Mr. Hurst ; and she isn't 
in a state to stand her trial." 

" Let us hope that Smith will patch her up to 



348 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

stand in the dock," said Ralph fiercely. " I want 
to get at the truth of this matter." 

" So do we ah," rejoined Darch coolly ; " and 
first let us learn how Jum came across the woman." 

" I'll tell everything if Mr. Hurst will be friends 
with me," said the boy, and to the amazement of 
the two men, burst into tears. 

Ralph grew more composed ^^'hen he saw this. 
"You don't deserve to have me for your friend, 
Jum," he said gravely. " You have behaved very 
badly. I was sorry to thrash you and dismiss you, 
but you must admit that you deserved to be 
punished." 

" Yes, I did. Iwas saucy because you sent away 
aunt. You've been very kind to me, sir, and as 
I've tried to make amends by bringing Mam'zel 
Clarice to you, I'll be thankful if you'll forgive me." 
He moved towards Ralph and fell on his knees. " Do 
forgive me," he pleaded. 

Hurst laid his hand on the boy's head. " Freely. 
I am not one to bear malice. You have done wrong, 
but you have been punished." 

" And by bringing Mam'zel Clarice here you have 
made amends, as you say," said Darch, secretly 
amazed by the boy's submission and wondering what 
it all meant. " Tell us how 3^ou found her, Jum." 

" Mr. Hurst has forgiven me, hasn't he ? " in- 
quired Jum, timidly rising from his knees. " I'll 
tell everything if he has." 

" You have my forgiveness," said Hurst grandly. 
" Now tell. Where has this M'oman been hidden all 
this time ? " 

" In my aunt's room." 

"Oh ! " Ralph stared and frowned. " Then that 
was why Mrs. Frint changed her room so unex- 
pectedly ? " 

" Yes ; aunt was afraid you would find Mam'i«^ 



JUM'S STORY. 249 

Clarice if she remained in her old room, so went up 
to the garrets, as no one would think of looking in 
that place." 

" Then she didn't change her room to get away 
from the sight of the statue ? " 

" No, sir ; that was an excuse." 

" But where did Mrs. Print find Mam'zel Clarice ? " 
asked Darch impatiently. 

" I don't know, sir. She wouldn't tell me. I 
only learned that Mam'zel Clarice was in the house 
when my aunt changed her room. She wouldn't let 
any of the servants help her to change but me, and 
hid Mam'zel in a secrer cupboard while we took the 
things upstairs. But I found out, as I was watching 
my aunt's doings and wondering what she was up 
to. She made me promise to hold my tongue." 

" You shouldn't have done that," said Hurst 
angrily. " It was your duty to tell the truth at all 
costs. You should have come to me." 

" Aunt said I wasn't to," said Jum, dogged!}'. 
" She didn't believe that Mam'zel was guilty." 

" On what grounds ? " asked Hurst hurriedly. 

" Aunt didn't say. But she made me promise to 
hold my tongue, and no one thought that Mam'iel 
Clarice was up in the garrets. Aunt took her up 
food every night and nursed her. She was quite 
quiet, and only talked nonsense like she talked 
to-night." 

" Doesn't she remember anything ? " 

" No," said Jum positively, " she goes on talking 
about danger to Miss Melicent, and the scroll, again 
and again. I never heard her say anything else." 

Hurst and Darch looked at one another, plainly 
unable to make anything of the boy's story, although 
it was told reasonably enough. Before they could 
compose their minds to ask further questions the 
doctor entered the room with a satisfied air, and s^t 



250 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

down to roll a cigarette. Miles asked him how his 
patient was doing. 

" I've got her to go to sleep by giving her a 
dose of morphia," said Toby soberly. " She's not 
responsible for her actions." 

" After her sleep, won't she be able to speak 
sensibly?" asked Hurst. 

" I don't think so. It's my opinion," went on the 
doctor, striking a match in a leisurely way, " that 
she has been struck a heavy blow on her head which 
has disordered her brain." 

" Who could have done that ? " 

" Your brother, I suppose," Smith blew a cloud 
of smoke, " during the struggle when he was killed. 
He defended himself in some way. How did she 
manage to hide ? " Toby looked at the three 
before him. 

Darch hastily explained what Jum had said. 
" We're as far off knowing the truth as ever," said 
Miles disconsolately. " Jum only knows what Mrs. 
Print chose to tell him." 

" Only that," said Jum, bending his head ; " and 
it was because Mr. Hurst sent away aunt, who was 
attending to Mam'zel, that I gave him sauce and 
got beaten. I have had to look after her myself 
during the last few days, and got tired of doing so. 
For that reason I brought her downstairs." 

" I suppose she really did go to Miss Melicent's 
bedroom one night ? " asked Darch curiously. 

" Yes. Mrs. Frint — my aunt, sir — was in a rare 
fright over that. But Mam'zel got away while aunt 
was sleeping, though how she found Miss Melicent's 
bedroom aunt didn't know." 

"She didn't enter by the door?" said Hurst 
suddenly. 

" No, sir," answered Jum promptly. " Aunt 
showed Mam'zel several secret ways of getting froni 



JUM'S STORY. 251 

one room to another, so that she could escape if 
anything came to hght about her being in the house. 
There is a secret entrance into Miss MeHcent's 
bedroom." 

" Why didn't you say this at the time ? " asked 
Hurst crossly. 

" Aunt told me not to, sir. And when you had 
the house searched, aunt hid Mam'zcl in another 
secret place — I don't know where." 

" It seems to me that Mrs. Frint is the person to 
examine," said Darch after a pause, during which 
he turned over matters in his mind. " You said, 
]\Ii-. Hurst, that she knew the Hall as well as you 
and better, which' seems to be the case, since you did 
not know where Mam'zel was hidden when Jupp 
searched the house. But Mrs. Frint knows more 
than that ; she knows if Mam'zcl murdered the 
Squire." 

■' If," repeated Hurst angrily, " there's no ' if ' 
al^out it, Darch. Of course she murdered the 
Squire." 

" Or aunt did," said Jum quickly. 

They stared at him. " What makes you say 
that ? " asked Smith quickly also. 

" Well, I only think she might have. Aunt had 
,a temper, sir. She might have come upon Mam'zel 
and the Squire and have lost it." 

" Pooh ! pooh ! " said Hurst indulgently ; " there 
was no reason for Frint to murder my brother. He 
was her best friend. You are talking rubbish." 

" Perhaps I am, sir," said the boy meekly. " But 
we'll know the truth when Mam'zel gets her senses 
back." 

" If she ever does," said Toby with a shrug. 

" Do you think she will, doctor ? " inquired Ralph 
anxiously. 

" It doesn't look like it at present," was the reply. 



25« THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" But, ill any case, failing Mam'zel, why not question 
Mrs. Frint ? " 

" I don't know where she is," said Ralph, biting 
his nails and looking worried. " I was too hasty hi 
sending her away. She hasn't written to me since 
she went to London." 

I' Did she go there ? " asked Darch meaningly. 

" She said she was going, and would let me know 
where to send her boxes to as soon as she was settled. 
I dropped her at the Brant station and drove away, 
so I don't know what ticket she took." 

" Well, Mrs. Frint must be found," said the 
barrister decidedly. 

The big man nodded his assent. " L'll put an 
advertisement in the London papers, unless she has 
gone to that Camden Town address where your 
mother lived, Jum." 

'' I could go up and see, sir," said Jum brightly. 

" Failing the ad\-ertisement, 3^ou may as well try. 
ril write out the advertisement and send it up to 
several morning and evening newspapers. And now 
we have settled things I suggest that you two should 
go home.' 

"I stay here to look after Mam'zel Clarice," said 
Toby promptly. " Melicent is watching her just 
now, and I can't have her kept up all night. You 
go home. Miles." 

" Well, I'm not much use here," said Miles, rising 
reluctantly; "but what about informing Inspector 
Jupp-" 

"He mustn't see Mam'zel," said Toby quickly, 
" for the sight of his uniform would meike her violent 
again. Better wait for a few days." 

Hurst nodded, well content that this should be 
so. " Only the servants will talk," he said with 
a sigh. 

"Well, then, tell Jupp, but keep him out of the 



jUM'S STORY. 255 

sick-room/' was Smith's testy reply. " I'm not 
going to risk his seeing Mam'zel. She may get her 
senses back, or she may not. In any case, the sight 
of Jupp won't do her any good." 

" \\^at about Lady Gibson and Sylvia ? " 

" They have gone to bed, and I've given Lady 
Gibson a sleeping draught. We have done all we 
can do this evening, Miles, so you had better go 
home." 

" And can I stay here, sir ? " asked Jum, looking 
timidly at his master. 

" Yes, my boy. We'll say no more about your 
bad behaviour. You have made amends ; 3^ou have 
made amends. But you must not accuse your aunt 
of murder." 

" It's only an idea," said Jum, hanging his head. 

" Better keep the idea to yourself then. Good 
night, Miles. Come over to-morrow and we'll see 
what else transpires." 

Miles went away with Smith, lea\ing Hurst and 
the boy together. At the front door, while Darcli 
was putting on his overcoat, he asked Smith a ques- 
tion : " What do you think of Jum ? " 

" Seems all right," said Toby laconically ; but 
Miles shook his head. He had his doubts of Jum. 
There was something behind the boy's extraordinary 
submisiion. 



w 



CHAPTER XX. 

LADY GIBSO-X'S STORY. 

HEN Darch awoke next morning lie lay 
thinking for some time over the extra- 
ordinary events of the previous night. It 
w'ds astonishing that Mam'zel Clarice should have 
been hidden in the house all these months, while 
she was being sought for far and wide ; it was 
astonishing that she should have been discovered 
and brought back by Jum. But to Darch* s mind 
the most astonishing thing of all was the boy's 
behaviour towards Hurst. Jum had a great sense 
of his o\Mi dignit}^ and it was unlikel}^ that he Avould 
forgive a thrashing, however well deserved. Cer- 
tainly he had a sense of gratitude, so far as Ralph 
was concerned, and had usually hesitated about 
saj^ing things against his benefactor. But Miles 
remembered that when the boy had come to see him 
last, he had distinctly left the impression that he 
intended to revenge his aunt's unjust dismissal. 
Yet here he was bowing down before the man who 
had dismissed her, and asking for his forgiveness. 

There was no doubt in Darch's mind that Jum 
was playing a game of some sort, and while the 
young man was dressing he wondered vainly what 
the game might be. Had the boy brought down 
the woman to accuse Hurst of being implicated in 

254 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 255 

the crime ? If so, he had failed in his object, owing 
to Mam'zel's loss of memory. But then Jum knew 
previously that her memory was lost, so he could not 
have introduced the accused woman to get Hurst 
into trouble. Then, again, Jum hinted that his aunt 
might have struck the blow, and knowing how deeply 
thankful Jum was to his aunt. Miles was puzzled to 
know why the boy should blacken her character. It 
was all very difficult to understand, and when break- 
fast was over the barrister walked to the Hall to 
learn all he could. His first interview, he decided, 
was to be with Jum. 

Strangely enough, he met the boy at the gates of 
the park, and still more strangely, the boy ran to 
meet him. Darch was immediately on his guard, for 
he did not know what scheme the lad had in his head. 
For this reason he did not utter a word, while Jum 
hastily explained himself. 

" I was coming to see you, sir," said Jum, volubly 
and earnestly, "for you must have thought I talked 
queerly in the library last night. I just want to say 
that you must trust me." 

Darch was surprised into speech by the word. 
" Why ? " 

" Because I know much more than I said, sir, 
only I can't speak without any proofs." 

'' Proofs of what ? " 

" Of all these queer things that have happened 
since the statue closed its hand," said Jum pointedly. 
" I know you think that I'm blowing hot and cold, 
Mr. Darch, first going against Mr. Hurst and then 
making it up with him. Also in speaking against 
my aunt as I did. But I have a reason." 

" What is it ? I want you to trust me, Jum." 

" I can't, sir." The boy drew back, looking 
obstinate. " If I told you wliat I know, and what 
I_^Liess, you'd only laugh at me, for I haven't any 



256 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

proof that my ideas are correct. Only trust me, 
sir. You have been kind to me, so has Miss Melicent, 
and my aunt also. I wish to serve you all three." 

" Mr. Hurst has also been kind to you, Jum." 

" Oh, him," the boy made a gesture of contempt. 
" He has his reasons for that, Mr. Darch. But tell 
me, will you trust me ? " 

" Yes," said Miles, after a steady look at the open 
face of the boy. 

" And if you don't see me for ever so long, you'll 
trust me ? " 

" Yes," said Darch again, quite puzzled ; " but I 
don't understand " 

" You will some day, sir, when I make a clean 
breast of it. Please don't ask me any questioni 
now. But I'll tell you one thing, sir. Inspector 
Jupp's at the Hall." 

Darch uttered an exclamation of surprise. " Who 
sent for him ? " 

"No one, sir. But the news that Mam'zel Clarice 
had been found got from the servants to the village, 
in spite of Mr. Ralph's telling them to hold their 
tongues. And from the village the news got to 
Serbery. It's only ten o'clock now, sir, but In- 
spector Jupp arrived a quarter of an hour ago." 

Miles would have asked further questions, but 
that Jum ran away at the top of his speed, passing 
along the riverside road in the direction of Brant. 
Remembering that Hurst had driven Mrs. Frint to 
Brant, the young man wondered if she had remained 
there instead of going to town. Wondered also if 
Jum was going to bring her dramatically to the Hall, 
as he had brought Mam'zel Clarice. This last inter- 
view with the boy deepened the mystery of his 
proceedings rather than explained them, and, 
sorely puzzled. Miles took his way up to the Hall. 

Here he found Jupp in the library, listening tp 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 257 

the explanation of Hurst and the statements of 
Toby, who had been with Mam'zel all night. The 
Inspector looked cross and his face was lowering, 
for he was annoyed to think that he had searched 
the Hall in vain. As a matter of fact, he seemed 
inclined to blame Hurst for his failure. 

'' You know everything that is to be known about 
this place," said Jupp in sharp tones, " so you must 
have guessed where this woman was concealed." 

" I guessed nothing of the sort," said Hurst furi- 
ously. " How dare you insinuate such a thing. 
This old house is full of queer nooks and corners, and 
although both I and my brother knew many of them, 
Mrs. Print knew more. For some reason, best 
known to herself, she aided this woman to escape 
after the murder, and changed her room so that she 
could conceal her better." 

" Then I must examine Mrs. Print," said the 
Inspector, more exasperated than ever. " You say 
you dismissed her." 

" Yes ; it's no use my explaining all that again. I 
have sent up an advertisement to half a dozen 
London papers in the hope that she will reappear to 
explain things." 

" She won't reappear if she is in league with 
Mam'zel over the murder. I am sure of that. I 
wish you hadn't dismissed her." 

" I wish I hadn't," retorted Ralph ; " but how 
was I to know that she was behaving in this way ? 
She had to be dismissed, as she was highly imper- 
tinent to me. A most forward and pushing woman." 

" Well, I'll wire to Scotland Yard and put the 
police on to her. But what about "this woman 
upstairs ? " 

" She is asleep," said Smith promptly, " and has 
been asleep all the night and up to the present. 
Don't waken her." 



258 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Wliy not ? I wish to arrest her." 

" She's quite mad, and is not fit to be arrested." 

" Mad or not, I'm going to remove her," said Jupp 
doggedly. 

" Of course you can do what you hke about that," 
rephed the doctor coolly ; " but I warn you that if 
she is wakened now and arrested, her reason will be 
gone once and for all." 

" And if she is left alone ? " 

" She may awaken with her senses more or less 
restored," said Toby calmly positive. " Of course, 
it is difficult for me to diagnose the case. But I 
think that a long sleep will put her comparatively 
right. She is suffering from a blow on the back of 
the head." 

" The Squire gave her that, I suppose," said Darch, 
who was listening intently. " At least, I presume he 
defended himself in some wa}^" 

" We'll never learn the truth until the woman 
speaks," said Hurst impatiently, " and I agree with 
the doctor that she should be allowed to sleep, so 
that there may be a chance of her recovering her 
senses. Still, it is for Jupp to say what is to be 
done." 

" Are you sure it is dangerous for her to be 
moved ? " the Inspector turned towards the young 
doctor. 

" I would stake my professional reputation that 
it is. You can have another opinion if you like." 

" No," said Jupp, rising with a satisfied look. " I'll 
take your word, doctor, since you seem to be so 
positive. But I'll leave some of my men here to see 
that she doesn't escape. Mrs. Print," added the 
Inspector, with a grim smile, " might return." 

" I wish she would return, with all my heart," 
said Hurst heavily. " I want to get at the truth of 
this business." 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. -l ^259 

" So do I," Jupp assured him. " Well, I'll leave 
my men in charge and go back to Serbery to com- 
municate with the London police. Where's that 
boy who got hold of the woman ? " 

" Somewhere about ; I don't know," said Hurst, 
carelessly. 

" Then he must be got hold of in his turn. I 
believe, from what you gentlemen say, that he know s 
more than he admits. " 

After his late interview with Jum, Miles was quite 
sure that the boy did, and, moreover, he could have 
told Jupp in which direction the boy had gone. But 
this he did not do, as he wished Jum to be un- 
hampered in his plans — whatever these might be — 
by the interference of the police. So Jupp went 
away to find the boy and travel to Serbery. 
He failed to come across the lad, so was obliged to 
attend to his other business first before seeking 
particularly. There was no time to be lost in 
notifying the London police that Mrs. Frint was 
wanted. 

Meanwhile, Smith informed Miles that Lady Gibson 
wished to see him. " She is worried about some- 
thing," said Toby, " and wishes to consult you. 
Come up to her room." 

" I forbid you to go," said Ralph, starting up with 
an angry look. " If Lady Gibson wishes to consult 
any one, she can consult me, since I am to be her 
son-in-law." 

^\'hile Ralph was speaking, Sylvia entered the 
room, looking more beautiful than ever in a plain 
morning dress of white linen. She had overheard 
the speech of Hurst, and it was she who answered it. 

" You can come up also," she said with cold 
composure. " My mother intends to ask Miles's 
advice." 

" I forbid her to do so." 



26o THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" My mother is past your forbidding her to do 
anything, Mr. Hurst. You have driven her into 
a corner, and now she will fight. She is up and 
dressed in the sitting-room adjoining her bedroom, 
and will see you both." 

" I'll stop her mouth," muttered Hurst furiously, 
and rushed out of the room, immediately followed 
by Darch, who did not intend to lose the oppor- 
tunity of learning Lady Gibson's secret. 

" Is 3"our mother going to throw Hurst o\-er ? " 
asked Toby bluntly. 

" She would if she could, but she is not able," said 
Sylvia sadly. " No, don't ask me to explain, but 
wait until Miles returns to tell you everything. In 
the meantime, let us go to Mam'zel's room. I want 
to relieve Melicent, who has been watching her since 
seven. She must be tired." 

" Can you trust your mother alone with Hurst ? " 
asked Toby doubtfull}'. " She is hysterical, 3''ou 
know, and " 

" She won't be hysterical when Miles is there to 
support her," interrupted Sylvia. " Toby," she 
spoke vehemently, " I do hope that something will 
happen to prevent my marriage v/ith Mr. Hurst." 

" And forward your marriage M-ith me ? " said 
Toby impetuously. 

" Yes," Sylvia cried ; " you know how I love you 
and hate him." 

" If 3''ou would explain " 

" I can't ; I can't. Wait until you see Miles 
again," and to prevent further questioning, Sylvia 
fled out of the library and up the stairs to relieve 
the vigil of Melicent. Toby, looking sorely puzzled, 
followed slowly. He was quite unable to under- 
stand what she meant. 

Meanwhile, Darch and Hurst were in the sitting- 
room adjoining Lady Gibson's bedroom and, sitting 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. j6i 

in a deep arm-chair, its occupant was grimly, vvitii 
a rigid, white face, defj'ing Hurst. Lady Gibson 
had dispensed with rouge ; her hair was twisted in a 
simple knot at the back of her head, and she wore a 
plain grey dressing-gown, without adornments of 
any kind. Seen thus she looked an old, worn-out 
woman, but in spite of her age and terror she was 
determined to make a confidant of Darch, whom she 
had always respected and liked. 

" It's no use your going on at me, Ralph," she 
said firmly. " I can't stand your tyranny any 
longer. I'm going to speak out." 

" Your speaking out won't prevent my marriage 
with Syhaa," he sneered, in a sullen manner, 
and furious to think that she was rebelling against 
him. 

" I hope it will, Ralph. \\'hen Miles knows all, 
he may find a way out of the wicked business. I 
would rather that Sylvia married Dr. Smith, poor 
as he is, than a de\il such as you are." 

" Hear her ! " cried Hurst, turning towards Miles 
and sneering derisivel3^ " She has known me all 
my life, yet she speaks of me in that way." 

"It is because I have known you all my life that 
I do call you by the onl}' name you deserve," said 
the woman bitterly. " You forget that I knew you 
when we were both young and was well aware of 
your profligate ways." 

" I reformed," said Ralph sulkily, and sat down, 
making no further attempt to prevent her from 
speaking the truth. 

" Yes ; because you had no money, and Edgar 
would only keep you here on condition that you did 
reform. He dismissed John Frint and made you 
his bailiff." 

" And a very good bailiff I was." 

" Because you had to be. I remember you talked 



262 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

about the serpent being kept straight while in the 
bamboo. No one but Edgar and I knew how truly 
you spoke. You were ahvays a bad man." 

" Well, well, get on with your confession," said 
Hurst impatiently. " No one here can say a word 
about my character, so no one will bother about 
what you will say. I don't care." 

" I think 3^ou will before I have done," said Lady 
Gibson swiftly. "As to my confession, as you call 
it, that will take but a few minutes. Miles," she 
made a great effort to screw up her courage, " before 
I married Sir Guy Gibson I had a husband." 

" Who was an anarchist," supplemented Ralph 
sneeringly. 

" Yes, Louis Durand was an anarchist," said Lady 
Gibson quietly, while Darch looked amazed at the 
information she had given. " When I was a young 
girl in Paris, I met him in good society. He was 
handsome and romantic, so I ran away with him. 
I learned, when too late, that he manufactured 
bombs, and was implicated in plots against the 
Government. He was a gentleman, certainly, but 
a fanatic, and as bad a man as Ralph there." 

" Well," said Miles, while Hurst chuckled and 
sneered, " why should you be afraid of this being 
known ? " 

" For Sylvia's sake," said Lady Gibson in a whisper, 
and Hurst chuckled again in a most hateful manner. 
" Louis, while making a bomb, was blown up, at least 
I was told so. I therefore returned to my people, 
^vho forgave me for marrying him and induced me 
to become the wife of Sir Guy." 

" Well," said Darch again, and wondering, " this 
also is no great secret to make you sacrifice Sylvia 
to this scoundrel." 

" Gently, Miles, gently," said Hurst, looking up 
venomously. 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 263 

" A man is a scoundrel who behaves to a woman 
as you have done, Hurst. And I'll thank you not 
to call me ' Miles.' " 

" Don't quarrel, but let me tell you everything," 
implored Lady Gibson hysterically, "for I feel that 
I can't stand much more trouble. After I married 
Sir Guy, and Sylvia was born, my first husband 
reappeared." 

" Oh ! " Darch was taken aback, and Hurst 
laughed loudly. 

" He had not been killed," explained the poor 
woman hurriedly, " but only injured, and when he 
got better he came to find me. I was married, so 
he told my husband everything. But heaven was 
my friend," she added, sobbing, " for soon after 
Louis put in an appearance, he was i"un over by 
a lorry and killed. Guy behaved to me like the good, 
kind man he was, and we were quietly married 
again." 

" But the marriage didn't make Sylvia legiti- 
mate," scoffed Hurst, who was enjoying the shame 
of the poor woman. 

" Hold your tongue," said Darch, turning on him 
roughly, " or I'll twist your neck, you scoundrel." 

" It would take a better man than you to do that," 
taunted Hurst ; " but I can afford to hold my tongue, 
as Sylvia can only refuse to marry me at the cost 
of the truth being told." 

" You swine ! " Miles almost struck him, and 
would have done so had not Lady Gibson caught his 
arm. 

" Wait ! wait ! " she implored. " I can punish 
him in another wa}'." 

" Punish me — punish me ! " shouted Ralph con- 
temptuously. 

" Yes," she said straightly. " Miles, this brute 
learned the truth from an anarchist called Strumai 



364 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

He's an old man now, but he was young when I 
married Louis. Ralph knew something of my secret, 
and sought out this man, who is in London. From 
him he learned the truth, and after Edgar's death 
he said he would publish the fact that Sylvia was 
illegitimate if I didn't allow her to marry him. I 
told Sylvia, and she consented, both for my sake and 
for her own. Now 3'ou know the worst," and she 
broke down, sobbing. 

" And how are j^ou going to remedy the worst ? " 
asked Ralph, with a shrug of his huge shoulders. 
He felt quite capable of holding his own. 

It was Lady Gibson who answered, not Darch. 
Just as he opened his mouth to reply she sprang 
to her feet with clenched hands and a furious 
face. 

" By exposing you, Ralph ! B}^ exposing 
you ! " 

" Dear me," he sneered ; " and in what way ? " 

" You got a bomb from Struma. He makes them, 
and very dangerous and deadly bombs they are. I 
went to see him, after you threatened me, to ask why 
he had betrayed me to you. He never intended to 
do so, and wept when I told him what you had done. 
If he was a younger man and in better health Struma 
would have killed you for making use of the infor- 
mation he gave you as you have done. Struma 
would not have given you the bomb but that you 
paid him a large sum of money which, in his poverty, 
he could not refuse." 

" Such rubbish ! " said Ralph, who was begin- 
ning to look uneasy. " Why should I buy a 
bomb ? " 

" Why should you plot your niece's death ? " 
retorted Lady Gibson. 

" It's a lie ! " Hurst turned pale and advanced 
threateningly. 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 265 

Darch, with a single leap, placed himself between 
the two. " Stop where you are, Hurst, or I'll " 

"Fight me, "raged Ralph furiously; "comeonthen." 

" No ; I'll call up one of the policemen and give 
you in charge." 

" For what ? " Hurst recoiled, and his face 
quivered in spite of all his efforts to maintain his 
composure. 

" On the charge of plotting against Melicent," said 
Darch CO0II3'. " I suspected as much before. Lady 
Gibson confirms my suspicions." 

" She can't prove them," said Ralph sullenly. 

" I can't, as you say," she said, sitting down again 
and passing her tongue over her dry lips ; " but I 
am sure you wish to get Melicent out of the way in 
order to get the money. You told me that you 
would have plenty of money soon, when you married 
Sylvia." 

" But I didn't say that I'd get it by killing 
Melicent." 

" No ; you are too clever to give yourself away," 
?!aid Lady Gibson passionately ; " but when I heard 
of those so-called accidents I suspected the worst. 
You planned to get her to fall down the stairs ; you 
planned to get her killed b}^ the falling elm-bough — 
I am sure of it." 

" Prove what you sa^'," sneered Ralph, recover- 
ing his bravado. 

" I can't ; but I'm sure you intended her death. 
And the bomb — why did you buy the bomb, unless 
it was to use it when all else failed ? " 

" I didn't buy any bomb, you silly woman," said 
Ralph, now quite composed, " and as you have told 
your secret, perhaps Darch here will see that he can't 
prevent me from marrying Sylvia." 

" We'll see about that," said Miles coolly ; " you 
are not so safe as you think you are, Hurst. W"h»o 



266 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Mam'zel Clarice recovers her reason she may make 
statements which won't be to your credit." 

" Print, also, I suppose, when she is found," said 
Hurst, equally coolly. 

" Yes ; things are dark now, but when the light 
comes " 

" Ah ! when the light comes," Ralph swaggered 
towards the door ; " but the light will never come. 
I'm too smart for any of you to catch me. You can 
come down, Mr. Darch, and tell everything that 
Lady Gibson has told you. It won't make the least 
difference to me," and with a loud, coarse laugh he 
went out of the room, banging the door with a crash. 

Miles, wishing he could thrash the ruffian, turned 
to Lady Gibson, only to find that she had fainted. 
In a moment he was out of the room also, calling 
on Sylvia. When he got to the hall, Melicent 
appeared with Jum, to whom she had been talking 
in the library. 

" Sylvia's watching Mam'zel," she said hurriedly. 
" What is it ? oh, what is it ? " 

" Only that Lady Gibson has fainted," said Miles 
soothingly. " Go up and look after her. When she 
comes to herself, tell her that it is all right, and that 
I'll come and see her again this evening. Jum, 
come with me." 

Melicent, not staying to question him, ran up the 
stairs, and Darch, along with the boy, walked 
towards the front door. There they were stopped 
by a policeman. 

" You can go, sir," he said, with great civility ; 
" but the boy must stay." 

" Why ? " asked Miles angrily, for his nerves were 
none of the best. 

" Inspector's orders, sir. He wants the boy kept 
here until his return." 

"Very good." Miles turned to the boy. "I'll 



LADY GIBSON'S STORY. 267 

see you when I come this evening, Jum. Remember, 
I trust you." 

" Yes, sir," said Jum brightly ; " you'll find I am 
to be trusted." 

Relieved in his mind by the boy's signihcant tone, 
Darch walked home to his own place. He wanted 
to be alone to think matters over, for what with one 
thing and another, his brain was in a perfect whirl. 
That Ralph was a blackguard, who would stop at 
nothing to obtain his ends, was vcry'plain after Lady 
Gibson's confession. But Darch did not see how 
to circumvent him in any way. He held the whip 
hand so far as S\dvia and her mother were concerned, 
and nothing could be done in that direction without 
the poor girl suffering. And with regard to the 
accidents, he was equally at a loss. There was 
])Ositively no proof that Ralph had any hand in 
them, and although Miles was as sure as Lady Gibson 
that they had been arranged, yet it was impossible 
to bring home the truth to Hurst. The whole 
position was one of singular difficulty. 

Darch wished that Toby would return so that he 
could consult him, but the doctor was so anxious to 
look after his patient that he remained at the Hall 
during the afternoon. Finally Miles, realising that 
thinking over matters led to nothing, determined, 
after tea, to return to the Hall and talk things over 
with ^lelicent . It was growing dark when he arrived, 
and he was surprised to fmd the place in commotion. 
Wondering what new trouble had occurred to cause 
this sensation, Darch walked into the house, after 
some expostulation with the policeman, who was 
disinclined to let him pass. 

" Inspector Jupp's here, sir, and he says that no 
one is to go out or come in, sir," said the officer, 
looking very important. " That woman's recovered 
her senses, and he's with her." 



26^ THE BLACK IMAGE. 
" Mam'zel has recovered her " 



Just as I\liles got thus far in his speech Mehcent 
appeared with red eyes and disordered hair. 

" I heard your voice, Miles," she sobbed, flying 
into his arms. ^ " There's such trouble. Mam'zel has 
recovered, and is speaking quite reasonably. She's 
saying the most awful things about Uncle Ralph." 

" And your uncle ? " Darch drew a long breath, 
greatly excited. 

" He has disappeared, and Jum has disappeared 
also." 



CHAPTER XXI. 

PART OF THE TRUTH. 

DARCH found it impossible to soothe Melicent. 
As the policeman on guard refused to let 
him go further than the hall, he sent up a 
message by one of the servants, who was summoned, 
asking the Inspector if he could enter. Then he 
drew the sobbing girl to a bench, as far away from 
the constable as possible, and tried to calm her. 
Heedless of the publicity, Melicent clung to her lover 
and refused to be consoled. She was wholly un- 
strung. 

" I'm sure I ne\er liked Uncle Ralph after he tried 
to force Sylvia into a marriage," she wept, " although 
I don't know how he did it. But he can't be as bad 
as that horrid woman says." 

" What does she say ? " 

" Oh, I can't tell you. I only heard a little, and 
then rushed out of the room, scared to death. But 
it's a shame saying things against Uncle Ralph when 
he isn't here to defend himself." 

" Where is he ? " asked Miles sharply. 

" Oh, don't speak like that ! " cried Melicent, all 
nerves and tears. " You make me jump. I can't 
bear it. I don't know where he is. He went away, 
and so did Jum, although Inspector Jupp wanted to 
see them both." 

26t 



2;o THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Seeing that it was impossible to get a coherent 
explanation from the crying girl, Darch beckoned to 
the policeman. " What's this about Mr. Hurst and 
the boy ? "he asked imperatively. 

" They've gone, sir." 

" \Miere ? " 

" There's more than you wants to know that, 
sir," said the officer grimly. "A lot of our men 
are hunting for them. The Inspector wired for 
them to Serbery as soon as Mr. Hurst and the boy 
made themselves scarce." 

" Why did they do that ? " 

The policeman removed his helmet and scratched 
his head. " Well, sir, I can't tell you that. All I 
know is that when Mr. Hurst learned that the woman 
upstairs was sensible and able to talk, he ran away. 
\Vhether he took the boy, or whether the boy 
followed him, I can't sa3^" 

" But why did you let them go ? " 

" We didn't know they intended to cut, sir. And 
the queer thing is that none of us know how they got 
away. They didn't get out of any of the doors here, 
though, to be sure, they may have slipped out of 
some window. Anyhow, they have disappeared for 
the last three hours and can't be found." 

" Where were they last seen ? " 

" In the place they call the Sanctuarj', sir, and 
I'm sure there ain't an^^ way out of that ! " 

Miles started when the Sanctuary was mentioned, 
remembering the legend of Amyas Hurst and the 
way in which people had disappeared in his day. It 
seemed as though history v/as repeating itself. He 
wondered if there was any secret way in and out of 
the place, and if the same had to do with the statue. 
It seemed very probable. Darch was very troubled, 
and did not know what to do. The policeman retired 
to his post near the door again, and Melicent still 



PART OF THE TRUTH. 2;t 

sobbed bitterly. Miles endeavoured to get her to 
explain what was being said about her uncle, but 
she refused to enlighten him. 

" It's too horrid, and I can't believe it," was all she 
replied. 

In answer to the message, Jupp himself appeared, 
coming down the stairs, and he looked grave and 
disturbed. In his hand he held several loose sheets 
of paper, on which Miles guessed was written the 
confession of Mam'zel Clarice. He rose and went 
toward the Inspector, anxious to learn how the 
woman had murdered the Squire, and why she had 
done so, and how she had escaped. 

" Can I be of any sen-ice ? " he asked Jupp as an 
excuse for his coming. 

" Yes ; I want you to come into the library and 
hear what this woman has said," answered Jupp 
promptly. " It's all set down here, signed by her, 
and witnessed by myself and Dr. Smith. He is with 
her still, as the excitement of telling her story has 
made her bad again. Come into the library, Mr. 
Darch, and you can come also, if vou like, I\Iiss 
Hurst." 

" No ! " Melicent sprang to her feet looking terri- 
fied and tearful. " I can't bear it. I'm sure Uncle 
Ralph is not so bad as that horrid woman makes him 
out to be. I only heard a little, but that little was 
quite enough." 

" But, Melicent," expostulated Miles, distressed by 
her grief, "it is just as well to know the worst. Be 
brave and face the worst." 

" I've heard the worst. Miles, and it's so dreadful 
that I don't believe it at all." Melicent dried her 
eyes and turned away towards the stairs, while the 
Inspector looked at her pityingly. " I'll go to 
Sylvia, and you can tell me everything later." 

" Better let her go," said Jupp in an undertone. 



272 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" I wish to have a quiet chat with you, Mr. Darch, 
and her tears will only upset things. I don't wonder 
she is crying, poor thing," ended the Inspector 
regretfully. " It's a dreadful story, but whether 
it's true or false I can't say." 

Melicent mounted the stairs slowly, and did not 
turn her head, even though Darch called out to her 
to be calm. When she disappeared, he went with 
the Inspector to the library and closed the door. 
Man as he was, and accustomed to face trouble. Miles 
felt little better than Melicent did. Things were so 
strange and uncomfortable as it was, that he 
dreaded to hear what the Inspector was about to 
tell him. It seemed as if they could not be worse ; 
yet if ^lelicent was to be believed the worst was 
yet to come. However, for the girl's sake, they had 
to be faced, so Darch sat down and braced himself 
to hear the confession of Mam'zel Clarice. 

" I can't say if it's true or false," said Jupp again, 
as he spread the sheets on the table and flattened 
them out. " I shan't read you this, Mr. Darch, but 
will tell you the whole story in my own way. For 
the last two hours I have been asking, questioning 
the woman and setting down her answers. WTiat she 
did explain is terrible, and I don't wonder the poor 
girl ran away." 

" Well, tell me the truth, and let me stand be- 
tween Miss Hurst and this dreadful truth, whatever 
it is," said Miles, with a twisted smile. " I am 
engaged to her, you know, Mr. Inspector." 

" Yes, I know, and I'm very glad that you have 
the right to protect her. She has had much sorrow 
as it is, poor thing, and she will have more." 

" When ? " Darch started, so serious was the 
officer's tone. 

"When we catch her uncle," repliedf Jupp 
grimly. 



PART OF THE TRUTH. 273 

" Tell me, in a word, what you mean. I can't 
stand this suspense." 

" In a word I mean ' murder/ and that explains 
ever^-thing." 

" Do you mean that Hurst has been murdered ? " 

" No ; Hurst has disappeared because he is wanted 
for murder, if what Mam'zel Clarice says here 15 
true," and Jupp laid his hand on the sheets. 

" Oh ! " Darch looked at the officer with a hor- 
rified expression. " Do you mean to say that Hurst 
is an accomplice of the woman and approved of the 
murder of his brother ? " 

" Oh, no ! " answered Jupp smoothly ; " I mean 
that Hurst murdered his brother himself." 

" Never ! " Darch stared at the speaker in- 
credulously. 

" It's true — that is, if Mam'zel Clarice is to be 
believed. I said that before and I say it again. 
She tells a very plausible story, as you will hear, and 
I should like to have your opinion on it." 

" What is Miss Hurst's opinion ? " 

" She didn't hear it all. She listened until the 
woman accused her uncle of striking the blow, and 
then ran out of the room, shrieking that it was false." 

" And Smith, what does he say ? " 

" He believes that Mam'zel Clarice is speaking the 
truth. The question is, what will you say, Mr. 
Darch ? " 

" Let me hear the story," said the other, and 
composed himself to hsten. 

Jupp lost no time. He leaned back in his chair, 
crossed his legs and placed his fmgers and thumbs 
together, disregarding the written confession, and 
telling the tale in his own way. " 1 must begin at 
the beginning," he said, in a deliberate way, " Miss 
Brown, usually called Mam'zel Clarice, is the 
daughter of Septimus Brown, the late Squire's tutor, 

S 



274 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Soon after her father's death she went to live in Paris 
with her French mother, and remained there for 
many j'ears, receiving, it seems, help from the Squire, 
\vho liked her as a child. WTien her mother died 
some time ago, Mam'zel came over to England to 
ask for assistance. She received it, for the Squire 
procured her an appointment in the Serbery school 
as the French governess." 

" I know all this," siiid Darch, somewhat im- 
patiently. " Go on." 

" There's no huny," said Jupp, still deliberate in 
his utterance and without changing his position. 
" I wish 3'ou to understand everything clearly, and 
so must explain fully. Miss Brown came over, not 
so much to get assistance from the Squire, as to 
marrj^ him if she could. It seems that, misled by 
his affection for her as a child, she believed that he 
really mteiided to marr}^ her when she grew up. 
Her mother, it seems, fostered this idea, being a very 
foolish woman, ^\^len Mam'zel Clarice came here, 
Hurst fostered it also." 

" But why ? " Darch looked amazed. 

" For his own ends, as j^ou will hear. As you 
know, Mam'zel, after waiting for a long time for the 
Squire to propose, came to the Hall when she heard 
that he was engaged to Miss Gibson. You know 
what took place." 

Miles nodded. " I was present. Mam'zel tried 
to stab the Squire with a knife snatched from the 
wall, and Hurst picked her up in his arms to carry 
her out of the house." 

" Precisely ; and the action of snatching the knife 
from the wall gave to Hurst the idea of being able 
to kill^his brother and lay the blame on the woman. 
If you remember, Mr. Darch, the Squire was stabbed 
with the same Afghan knife, taken from the same 
trophy_^of arms over the fireplace." 



PART OF THE TRUTH. 275 

" Yes ! yes ! " i\Iiles leaned his elbows on the 
table and listened with all his ears. " Go on, go 
on. But why did Hurst wish to kill his brother ? " 
he asked as an afterthought. 

" He did not wish the Squire to marry Miss 
(jibson. At least, that is the reason Mam'zel 
Clarice assigns for the crime. But to continue : 
Afterwards, Mr. Hurst went to Mam'zel Clarice 
secretly b^' night and said that he wanted her to 
marry his brother." 

" But the Squire didn't," broke in Darch im- 
patiently. " That's absurd." 

" Wait, wait ! You will hear all in due time. 
Can't you see that the man was deceiving the 
woman for his own ends. His pretended desire 
that she should marry the Squire was part of the 
plot." 

" I can't see it." 

" You will if you will listen and not interrupt," 
snapped Jupp, rather irritably. " Hurst, according 
to 5lam'zel, said that his brother refused to see her 
again, but that if she did manage to see him, he 
would probably yield to her solicitations. He there- 
fore promised to get her into the house, secretly, 
and arranged that she should get the key of the 
postern." 

" She did, and then it was taken from her again." 

"Oh, no, it wasn't!" said Jupp triumphantly. 
" Hurst told her that he had given the key to his 
niece, who was going to visit you and the doctor, 
along with Miss Gibson. So, as was arranged 
between the two, Mam'zel watched for the return of 
the lot of you. Wlien she saw the key put into the 
door — and she could see it since an electric torch 
was used to show where the keyhole was, she dropped 
from the tree in which she was hidden and snatched 
the key." 



276 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

"I know that. i*j.nd then Jum ran after her and 
made her give it up." 

" Oh, no ; she gave up a key— the wrong key, 
and kept the real one." 

" Oh ! " said Darch again, wondering at the clever- 
ness of the scheme. , 

" Yes, it is clever," said Jupp, reading his thoughts. 
" Hurst is very clever, but, as it seems, not quite 
clever enough. However, you can see that with 
the key Mam'zel was able to enter the house un- 
known to any one. Then, to make things doubly 
sure and provide an alibi. Hurst sent Lady Gibson 
to the woman Vv'ith a bribe of one hundred pounds — 
furnished by the Squire — ^to induce her to return 
to Paris. You know that Mam'zel agreed to do so ; 
that she sent her boxes to London and took her 
departure to Brant on the motor-cycle given to her 
by the Squire." 

" Yes ; Jum saw her go towards Brant." 

Jupp nodded. " The boy was set to watch her 
by Hurst for that purpose — to allay suspicion, I 
mean. Then Hurst went to London for the night, 
having arranged what Mam'zel was to do." 

" W'Tiat was she to do ? " 

" Pretend to go to Brant and pull the wool 
over Jum's eyes ; then return and place her 
motor-cycle at the edge of the wood, outside the 
Sanctuary." 

" I remember that Walters and I found traces of 
it there, owing to oil having been spilt." 

" I believe that oil was spilt on purpose to impli- 
cate the woman in the crime," said the Inspector 
dryly, " and by Hurst himself." 

" I see. He returned ? " 

" Exactly ! he went up publicly by the Serbery 
line and came down secretly by the Brant line. 
Then he walked from Brant, found the motor-cycle 



PART OF THE TRUTH. 277 

on the verge of the wood, and knew thereby that 
Mam'zel Clarice was in the house." 

" She climbed over the Sanctuary wall ? " said 
Miles quickly. 

" Oh, no, she didn't," was Jupp's unexpected 
reply. " She entered the house by the postern gate, 
having slipped into the park up the avenue. Then 
she stole to the study, locked the door and faced the 
Squire, who was reading. By this time Hurst had 
climbed the wall of the Sanctuary and was in the 
room. He entered from the outside at the same 
moment as she entered from the inside, and the 
Squire, as you might put it, was between two fires." 

' ' And what did he say ? ' ' 

" According to Mam'zel he didn't have time to 
say anything. Just as he began to rage at her in- 
trusion, Hurst snatched the knife from the wall and 
stabbed his brother. The Squire fell dead on the 
floor and then Hurst lifted a heavy chair and flung 
himself on the woman. Before she could realise his 
object he struck her down, and she remembered no 
more." 

Jupp stopped and looked pleasantly at his listener. 
Miles made an impatient gesture with his hand. 
" Go on. Why do you stop ? " 

" Because there is nothing more to say." 

" But how did Mam'zel escape, seeing that she 
was insensible ? " 

" Ah, that's what I want to know, and what she 
can't tell ! Everything became dim from the time 
she was struck down. The first thing she remem- 
bered aftervs'ards was Mrs. Frint looking after her 
in her own room — that is, in Mrs. Frint's room. 
Then she remembers dimly having gone to warn Miss 
Hurst, and finally, has a recollection, more or less 
faint, of having been brought down to the drawing- 
room to face a lot of people." 



27^ THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" I was there," said Darch briefly ; " then she 
remembers nothing dearly ? " 

" No ; from the time she fell in the study to the 
time she awakened from the long sleep to-day is 
more or less of a blank filled with fragmentary sug- 
gestions, sometimes true and sometimes false. So 
you see we can't get at the exact truth until we 
catch Hurst. He has disappeared, and did so when 
he heard that Mam'zel had regained her senses." 

" That seems to show the trutli of the story you 
have told me." 

" Yes, I'm glad to hear you say that, since I have 
been wavering. I can't see what motive Hurst had 
to kill his brother, and of course the woman would 
lay the blame on him if she could." 

Darch reflected for a few minutes. " I believe 
that Hurst wanted the money, and so invented this 
plot to get rid of his brother without suspicion 
falling on himself. Mam'zel gave him the idea with 
her mad attack on the Squire, and he carried out 
the idea in the way you have described." 

" That won't do," said Jupp, shaking his head, 
" for even if the Squire was murdered. Hurst couldn't 
get the money, seeing that his niece is the heiress to 
the property." 

" Oh, he meant to get rid of her also, and tried 
to do so," said Miles dryly, explaining fortlnvith to 
the astonished officer how the two accidents had 
occurred. 

" Ha ! " Jupp drew a deep breath ; " this seems to 
make things much clearer. What a devil ! Well, 
we must find him and force him to confess. The 
queer thing is, Mr. Darch," added Jupp, looking 
puzzled, " to know how he escaped. I told my men 
to let no one in or out of the house, and they were 
at every door and about the grounds. Yet Hurst 
got away and took the boy with him." 



PART OF THE TRUTH. 279 

" I know," Miles nodded, " and they were in the 
Sanctuary when they were seen last." 

" \\Tiat's that got to do with it ? " 

" Well, if you know the family legend, and I think 
you told me you did, it is there related that many 
people disappeared in the time of Amyas Hurst. 
It seems to me that there is some secret connected 
with the Sanctuary which Hurst discovered." 

" There seems to be plenty of secrets connected 
with this house," said the Inspector petulantly, for 
he was still sore about his failure to discover Mam'zel 
when she was concealed by Mrs. Frint. " I think 
the best thing to do would be to burn the place down 
and end all the mystery." 

" Or destroy the statue," said Darch, half to 
himself. 

" Oh, you think that the image has something to 
do with the matter ? " 

" Yes ; all the trouble began with the closing of 
the hand, and although the hand is open again the 
trouble still continues. So far, at least, the legend 
speaks falsely." 

" What do you mean exactly ? " 

" Well, the legend says that when the hand is 
closed it means bad luck to the family, and we know 
that such was the case. But even when the hand 
opened the bad luck continued, so that gives the 
lie to the superstition." 

" So the hand is open again ? " 

" Yes ; it opened some daj^s ago, to end misfor- 
tune, as it was said. But now the very worst 
misfortune of all has come." 

" Do you think that Hurst has anything to do 
with the opening and closing of this hand ? " asked 
Jupp, after a long pause. 

" From what we have learned about him, I think 
he has. He was always studying family papers and 



28o THE BLACK IMAGE. 

documents, so he might have stumbled across some 
secret m connection with the Sanctuary." 

" And has made use of his knowledge ? " 

" That is my idea," said Darch, nodding posi- 
tively. 

" It's not a bad one. We'll have a look at the 
Black Image and find out, if possible, how that hand 
closes and uncloses. I wonder if Miss Hurst would 
let us pull the thing down ? " 

" Well, she has some superstition connected with 
it, as meaning luck, good or bad, for the family, so 
wishes to preserve it. All the same, if needs be, she 
might agree to its being pulled down. But let us 
try to find Hurst first." 

" And Mrs. Frint also," said Junp rising. " I 
believe that old woman knows a lot. Do you know 
that she is Hurst's wife ? " 

" What ! " Darch started to his feet with an 
amazed look. 

" Yes ; I got that much out of the boy before 
he disappeared. Mrs. Frint told him that Hurst 
was her husband, and so induced him to hold his 
tongue about many things which should have been 
made public." 

" What things ? " 

" Ah, I want to find out ! But the boy has dis- 
appeared, willingly or unwillingly, with Hurst. I 
wonder if he's in the plot in Hurst's favour." 

" H'm," said Darch meditatively, " I don't think 
so. I trust Jum, as he M^arned me that he might 
disappear." 



CHAPTER XXII. 

THE SECRET OF HECATE. 

FOR the next three days there were busy times 
at the Hall. It was quite in a state of 
siege, since news of the sensational events 
which were taking place under its roof had spread 
rapidly. Tlie murder of the Squire ; the legend of the 
Black Image ; the capture of the suspected woman ; 
the disappearance of Hurst and the boy ; all these 
things were on every one's tongue. A horde of 
reporters came from the surrounding district and 
from London, anxious to secure exciting narratives 
for their respective newspapers. Photographers, 
amateur and professional, came also to haunt the 
place, and morbid sightseers were very much in 
evidence. But all who flocked to Grenacer had 
to content themselves with a view of the park wall 
and the trees beyond it. Jupp would not allow 
anyone to enter the gates, which were guarded day 
and night. Policemen were at the entrance to the 
park ; in the park itself, and in the wood surround- 
ing the Sanctuary, while quite a dozen plain-clothes 
detectives were indoors, poking and prying and 
watching and asking all kinds of questions. 

The Hall servants were in a frenzy, as the presence 
of the police, the constant examinations, and the 

281 



282 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

sense of mystery engendered by the extraordinary 
disappearance of Hurst and the page, wore out their 
patience and endurance. They would gladly have 
left in a body and without their wages, but that the 
Inspector insisted that thej^ should remain where 
they were, directly under his official eye. Mam'zel 
Clarice was still in Mrs. Print's garret, attended by 
the doctor, for after her confession was signed and 
witnessed, she relapsed into a sound sleep from which 
there was no awakening her. Toby allowed her to 
sleep on, as he believed that only by complete rest 
could she be restored to perfect sanity. Even before 
she had slept again, her lucid inter\^al had come to 
an end, and she had babbled deliriously, until a pro- 
found slumber silenced her tongue. And always her 
cry was about " danger," " the scroll," " why did 
Hurst read it ? " and then again, " danger, danger, 
danger." No one could make any sense out of 
these ravings, although, knowing her confession, 
both Darch and the Inspector tried to guess what 
they meant. But as they could arrive at no con- 
clusion, all they could do was to wait until she woke 
again, when it was possible — according to Toby — 
that her disordered brain might be more composed 
and sensible. 

Lady Gibson remained at the Hall also, since the 
Inspector would not allow her to leave. She re- 
mained mostly in her room or in the sitting-room 
adjoining, attended to by Sylvia, to whom she clung 
like a child. She knew well enough that Darch 
would be silent concerning her secret, but dreaded 
lest Ralph, in his vindictiveness, might tell it broad- 
cast. But Miles reassured her on this point by 
explaining that Hurst had quite enough to do in 
looking after his safety rather than in talking about a 
matter which could not affect it in any way. Some- 
times Lady Gibson took this view ; and at other 



THE SECRET OF HECATE. 283 

times she felt sure that Hurst was betraying her. 
But for Sylvia's tender nursing the poor woman 
would have gone off her head. As it was, she be- 
came so weak that only her daughter's constant 
care, and Toby's medical skill, kept her alive. And 
by this time she had quite overcome her hatred of 
the doctor, and was as anxious that he should marry 
Sylvia as formerly she had been opposed to his 
doing so. 

Meanwhile, search was being made everywhere 
for Hurst, for Jum.and for Mrs. Print. Not a sign 
could be discovered of the woman, although adver- 
tisements were in all the London papers, and a de- 
scription of her appearance was given. The police 
hunted for her everywhere, but she could not be 
found and, so far as could be discovered, she had 
taken no ticket to London at the Brant railway 
station. She had disappeared as completely as 
the other two, and where they were was quite a 
myster5^ No one had seen Hurst or the boy leave 
the house ; no one had seen them pass through the 
village ; no one had set eyes on them either at Ser- 
btry or Brant. They had vanished as completely 
as Mrs. Frint had done, and the earth might have 
opened to swallow all three for all the trace of their 
whereabouts that could be found. It was most 
extraordinary, and people found ample food for 
gossip in wondering what had become of the trio. 
But no one could even guess where they had gone. 

Thinking over the family legend, and the fact that 
Hurst and the boy had been in the Sanctuary when 
they were last seen, Inspector Jupp searched the place 
and examined the statue. He believed, as r)arch 
did, that there was a secret way out of the Sanctuary , 
made use of by Amyas Hurst to get rid of his victims, 
and utilised by his descendant to escape the law. 
But although every inch of the ground was examined. 



284 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

although the image was looked at from every point 
of view, no sign of any outlet could be discovered. 
Certainly, as Darch pointed out, the man and boy 
could have escaped by scaling the wall ; but in that 
case they would have been seen abroad. It was 
impossible that the}^ could escape the watchfulness 
of the police, who had their nets spread over all the 
country. Every railway station, every seaport, was 
watched, but without success. All that Jupp could 
think was that the fugitives were hiding somewhere 
in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Frint included. For if 
the housekeeper, as had been proved, took no ticket 
for London, it was possible that she had not gone 
there. Jupp became quite weary in endeavouring to 
solve the m3^stery, but the more he tried to do so, 
the more he failed. 

Melicent now knew the whole story of her uncle's 
guilt, and after the first feelings of shame and horror 
that he could behave so basely, were over, she braced 
herself to calmness. As she had faced things before, 
bravely, so she faced them now, and was even willing 
that the statue should be pulled down, so that the 
truth should become known. But she regretted 
having to do so, and one evening when in the Sanc- 
tuary with Miles, looking at the sinister figure, said 
as much. Darch shrugged his shoulder. 

" I don't see why 370U should mind, Melicent," he 
said, staring at the gigantic image standing grimly 
and blackly on its mossy platform. " It's not a 
pretty object and, moreover, so far, has brought 
nothing but trouble." 

" Then you do believe that the opening and 
shutting of the hand has brought trouble ? " she 
asked triumphantly. 

" I believe that the opening and closing of the 
hand is due to some secret mechanism," said Miles 
after a pause, " and that your uncle found some old 



THE SECRET OF HECATE. 285 

document which explained the same. Some parch- 
ment or scroll or " 

" Miles/' Melicent spoke in an excited tone, 
" don't 5^011 remember how Mam'zel keeps talking 
about a scroll, which uncle shouldn't have read." 

" Yes ; that makes me believe that he found a 
scroll describing how the hand could be opened and 
shut," said Miles quietly ; " but whj^ are you so 
excited ? " 

" Because there is the scroll," and Melicent 
pointed to the leaden roll which Hecate held in her 
left hand. 

" Oh, that's only a fancy touch to indicate the 
scroll of fate." 

" It's lead, and lead can be rolled and unrolled," 
>aid the girl positively, as she fingered the scroll. 
" Try and pull it away from the hand, Miles, and 
see if there is any writing on it." 

The idea was so wild that the young man laughed 
it to scorn. However, to pacify the girl, who was 
greatly excited, he tugged at the roll in the hand of 
the image. Once, twice and thrice he tugged. Then, 
to his surprise, he did pull the scroll away from the 
closed hand. " Hullo," said Miles, greatly surprised, 
" it isn't fastened to the hand. Evidently it was 
meant to be removed." 

" Of course, of course," cried Melicent feverishly. 
" Open it, open it. I do believe that it contains 
some explanation about the statue and our family 
luck. Oh, do be quick, Miles." 

" My dear child, it isn't easy to unroll," said the 
young man, who was deftly bending the lead. " It's 
squeezed together pretty tightly." 

However, after much difficulty, he managed to 
flatten out the lead and went indoors to examine it 
by lamp-light. Laying it on the table in the study 
he examined it carefully, while Melicent peered over 



286 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

his shoulder, breathing quickly and with shining 
eyes. 

" It has writing on it," she cried, dancing with 
excitement. " Lots of writing. But what queer- 
looking letters." 

" Gothic letters ; the kind of black type one finds 
in old tomes," explained the lawyer, becoming 
excited in his turn, " and it's in Latin too. By jove, 
Melicent, I believe you've hit upon the truth. 
This is the scroll that your uncle read, and I believe 
it contains an account of how to open and shut the 
hand of Hecate. There's some kind of machinery 
about the business, 3'ou may be sure. But why did 
your uncle put it back again, and so risk the 
discovery of his villainy ? " 

" He never thought that any one would think it 
was meant to be taken out of Hecate's hand," said 
Melicent reflectively ; " and but that Mam'zel talked 
of the scroll, I shouldn't have suggested j'our 
removing it. Do read it. Miles." 

" My dear child, I can't, straight away. It's in 
Latin, and some of the Gothic letters are very faint. 
I'll tackle it to-night, and probably will have 
deciphered the whole thing by the morning." 

" I shan't sleep a wink until I know what is in it." 

" Don't be silly, Melicent. And don't say a word 
about this to anyone. I'll translate it and see what 
it says, then we can tell Jupp." 

" All right," said Melicent soberly. " I'll not say 
a word. But I'm sure I shan't sleep a wink." 

" Nor shall I," answered Darch ruefully. " This 
will take me the whole night to get the hang of. It 
is a find. I believe it will solve the whole mystery 
of the Sanctuarv." 

Miles did sit up the whole night, for, good 
scholar as he was, and patient in every way, 
the scroll taxed all his capabilities to decipher 



THE SECRET OF HECATE. 287 

and translate. For hours and hours he laboured, 
setting down letter after letter and word after 
word on a sheet of paper until he had the whole 
transcribed. Towards the end of the scroll some 
of the Gothic letters had been rubbed out, and the 
information contained in the document — if it could 
be called so — came to an abrupt end. Then Miles 
translated the Latin into English, and was amazed 
by what he read. He would have awakened the 
house with a war-whoop, but that he managed to keep 
himself well in hand. It was dawn when he ended 
his labours, and he retired to bed to snatch a couple 
of hours' sleep, and did his best to do so. But his 
every effort was vain, for the reading of the scroll 
had excited him too much. He was up and dressed 
and sent a policeman on a bicycle for Jupp long 
before Melicent made her appearance, and then he 
refused to answer her eager inquiries until the 
Inspector arrived. 

" Why can't you tell me about it ? " asked 
Melicent, much vexed by this reticence. 

" You'll learn everything when Jupp arrives," 
replied Darch hastily. " Meanwhile, tell one of the 
policemen to fetch the village blacksmith." 

" What for ? " MeHcent obediently turned to go. 

" You'll learn when you and I and Jupp arc in the 
Sanctuary learning the secret which Hecate has held 
for so long. Since the days of James, I may say,, 
for it was then Amyas Hurst put up the beastly 
statue." 

" Hecate's secret was found out by Uncle Ralph," 
said Melicent dryly, " so she has not kept it to herself 
so long as you think." 

However, she sent the constable for the black- 
smith and his tools, wondering greatly why they 
were wanted. When Jupp arrived, full of curiosity 
to learn the reason for his unexpected summons. l\e 



288 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

found Darch in the Sanctuary together with the 
blacksmith and Miss Hurst. Miles explained how 
the girl had suggested that the scroll should be taken 
from Hecate's hand, and how he had sat up all night 
reading the same and translating it. The Inspector 
listened to all this in amazement, and asked if there 
was anything in the leaden scroll likely to solve the 
mystery of the Sanctuary. 

" It explains all about the statue," said Miles, 
holding out his translation. " If you read this you 
will learn what this accursed thing really is." 

Jupp took the papers, looked at them doubtfully, 
and finally thrust them into his pocket. " You can 
explain," he said briskly. " I can't be bothered to 
read them now. It would take up too much time." 

"Oh, I can explain in a few minutes," said Miles 
quickly. " You know, since you have heard the 
family legend, that Amyas Hurst travelled to Nurem- 
berg, and brought his wife from that city." 

" Yes ; she was burnt as a witch, wasn't she ? " 

" Exactly ! And her loss sent Amyas more or less 
out of his mind. At least, I think so, or he wouldn't 
have invented this beastly statue." 

" How do you mean invented it, Miles ? " asked 
Melicent, who was listening keenly. " It's merely 
a statue of Lady Hurst." 

" It's more than that, Melicent. Have you heard 
of the Maid of Nuremberg, that horrible thing, which 
opens its arms and crushes people." 

Jupp, who was a well-read man, nodded. " Is 
this statue formed on the same model ? " he asked, 
glancing up at the figure. 

" In a way. But you can see for yourself. The 
scroll says that there is machinery)' in the platform, 
which, when set in motion, causes the statue to open. 
Also in the right arm there is a long screw — you see 
that the arm is straight — which can be used to open 



THE SECRET OF HECATE. zSg 

and shut the hand. As you might put it, there is an 
iron skeleton hand inside that leaden one, which can 
contract and open as the screw is worked." 

" I see," said Jupp, while Melicent uttered an 
exclamation of surprise. " And Hurst found this 
out ? " 

" I think so ; otherwise, how could the hand open 
and close. But you can examine the interior of the 
statue for yourself." 

" One moment," said the Inspector, wishing to be 
fully informed of everything ; " why did Amyas 
Hurst make such a statue ? " 

" He was mad, I think, as I said before," answered 
Miles frankly. " The burning of his beloved wife 
must have sent him off his head. And I fancy those 
people who disappeared in his days must have been 
decoyed here and thrust by Amyas Hurst into the 
statue to be crushed to death, just as was done in 
Nuremberg with the statue there." 

" What a terrible idea," said Melicent, growing 
white. " And do you think — do you think," she 
faltered, "that Uncle Ralph is — is" — her voice 
failed her, and she could only point to the village. 

" No ! no ! He couldn't have shut himself in. 
Anyone placed in the statue, I think, would have to 
be shut in by working the machinery." 

" Jum went with him," said Melicent in a low 
tone of horror. 

" I know. But I don't think your uncle would 
have allowed Jum to close him up in that image to 
starve or to be crushed to death. Besides, Jum 
can't be found any more than your uncle can." 

" Well, let us see how the statue can be opened. 
Here, my man, have you your tools ? " said Jupp to 
the blacksmith, who all this time had been standing 
by the image, looking at it with an awestruck air, 
and listening with all his might. 

T 



290 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Yes, sir. WTiat am I to do, sir ? " He addressed 
Miles, who referred to the copy of his translation 
which he had kept . 

" Come here." The j'oung man moved to the side 
of the platform on which the statue stood, and knelt 
down to run his hand along the stone face under the 
projecting bricks. For some time he was unsuccess- 
ful in finding what he wanted, but ultimately his 
face brightened. " Ah, here we are ! You see this 
hole, Jupp ? Well, by putting an instrument into 
this the statue can be opened and shut. It's like 
a watch being wound up. We haven't got the 
original instrument, but I dare say we'll manage. 
We really want a gigantic key." 

But the thing was not done easily. The black- 
smith took out his tools and fumbled away for a long 
time at the hole. Finally he had to break away the 
brickwork and lay bare a projecting iron shaft cut 
square at the end. B}^ using a spanner, a pair of 
pincers and several other things, he managed to 
twist this round with some effort. Melicent uttered 
an exclamation, for she saw the body of the statue 
move. 

" It's parting ; it's parting," she cried, clapping 
her hands, " and see, Mr. Jupp, there's a crack down 
here all the M^ay." 

The Inspector, scarcely less excited than she was, 
hurried round to where she had gone, and saw indeed 
that a line was showing from the head to the heels 
of the image. Aided by Miles, the blacksmith 
turned the shaft slowly, as it was evidently rather 
rusty. All at once the working became easy and 
the shaft revolved rapidly. Jupp and Melicent on 
the other side watched the line widening gradually, 
as the statue parted slowly in two. Then the 
Inspector uttered a cry of amazement. 

" There's a body inside," he said. 



THE SECRET OF HECATE. 291 

" Oh ! " Melicent shrieked, " can it be Uncle 
Ralph ? " 

" No, it's a woman's body. See the dress — a 
black dress," cried Jupp, excited beyond measure, 
for he guessed what was coming. 

Miles, knowing that it was easy to turn the shaft 
now, ran round to join the two spectators. The 
blacksmith twisted and twisted as hard as he was 
able, until the statue yawned widely. Then out of 
it, sideways, there tilted a body — the bod}' of the 
woman. Spellbound, the three onlookers saw it 
come into the light of day and fall out of the vile 
image. 

" Great heavens! " cried Miles, bending over the 
corpse, " it's Mrs. Frint ! " 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

NEMESIS. 

IN this way one of the three missing people 
returned, and most unexpectedly. Even 
Jupp, with his lifelong experience of crime, 
had never dreamed of such a thing. Like every one 
else, he had fully believed that Mrs. Frint was alive 
and, for some reason, in hiding. She had certainly 
been driven to Brant by her husband, for several of 
the servants had seen her depart with him, and also 
had seen the man return without her. There was 
not the slightest suspicion that Hurst had made 
away with the woman. 

" I expect that when he left her at the Brant 
railway station," surmised the Inspector, " she 
followed him back instead of going to London as he 
desired her to do. This pertinacity probably made 
him kill her, as she knew too much about her 
husband's wickedness." 

" But where did he murder her ? " asked Melicent, 
who was more and more horrified by the recital of 
her uncle's criminality. 

" In the study, I should think. You see, she has 
been stabbed to the heart, just as your father was, 
and probably with another weapon taken from the 
trophies of arms on the wall. It would be easy 

29a 



NEMESIS. 293 

for a powerful man like your uncle to carry the 
body into the Sanctuary and shut it up in the 
statue." 

" How could Mrs. Frint get into the house ? " 
asked Darch suddenly ; "for if she had entered 
openly the servants would have seen her." 

" Knowing the terms on which she was with her 
husband, I don't suppose she attempted to enter 
openly. But you remember, Mr. Darch, that Hurst 
said she knew the Hall better than he did himself, 
and this is proved by the way in which she concealed 
Mam'zel Clarice when I searched for her. Mrs. 
Frint, I believe, knew of some secret way by which 
she could enter. She did, and then Hurst got rid of 
her by violence. But there," Jupp waved his hand 
to suggest the impossibility of solving the problem, 
" this is all surmise. Until Hurst is caught and 
is forced to confess, we will never learn all the 
truth." 

" We know a great deal of it," said Melicent, with 
a shudder. 

" Yes, Miss Hurst ; but we wish to know more. 
Wlien we find your uncle and can arrest him " 

Darch interrupted the speaker in a positive way. 
" You may find him, Mr. Inspector, but I don't 
believe you will ever arrest him. He will blow 
himself up rather than surrender to be hanged." 

" Blow himself up," Jupp looked puzzled, " how 
can he do that ? " 

" With a bomb that he bought from an anarchist 
in London some weeks ago." 

" A bomb ? The deuce ! " Jupp looked uneasy. 
" It isn't a comfortable idea to think that a des- 
perate man is lurking somewhere with a bomb. 
Out of revenge he may exterminate the whole lot 
of us. But what is he doing with a bomb ? " 

Darch explained, suppressing the true reason of 



294 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Hurst's visit to Struma. " I believe he intended 
to kill Melicent in that way. There, there, darling, 
I didn't intend to frighten you, but we may as well 
face the worst." 

Melicent had started when she heard this bald 
speech, which was sufficient to shake tlie strongest 
nerve. Nevertheless, save turning a trifle paler, she 
did not blench, but only held her head higher. 
" Like Macbeth, I'm screwed up to the sticking 
point," she said defiantly ; " and, come what may, 
I'm not going to be frightened any more." 

" Bravo, Miss Hurst ! " said the Inspector, with 
hearty admiration ; " you are a real brick. I don't 
like the idea of a bomb in your uncle's hands, but 
it's part of my business to take risks. All the same, 
as I believe he is hidden somewhere about this place, 
perhaps it will be as well for you and the other ladies 
to go to Serbery untiLwe catch him." 

" No ; I'll stay here with Miles," Melicent caught 
her lover's hand. " If we are to be blown up we may 
as well die together," for which brave speech — 
and it was brave — Miles kissed her, while Jupp 
applauded. 

This conversation took place late in the afternoon, 
and long after the body of the unfortunate woman 
had been removed into the house. Smith had been 
called by the Inspector to examine the corpse, and 
said that Mrs. Frint had been stabbed to the heart 
just as her late master had been stabbed. So far 
as he could judge from the state of the body, he 
placed the date of the poor creature's death, some 
daj^s back, which agreed with Jupp's belief that 
Hurst had got rid of her on the very night when he 
had driven her to the Brant station. Both the 
doctor and Darch agreed with Jupp's view that she 
had returned to denounce Hurst's crimes, and had 
been murdered by him to save himself from ex- 



NEMESIS. 295 

posure. Mrs. Print still wore her black dress, a 
mantle, her bonnet and gloves, so, undoubtedly, 
entering the Hall by some secret wa}^ known to 
herself, she had come suddenly upon her wicked 
husband. It was probable that he had struck her 
down before she could alarm the house, and then 
had huddled the body into the statue with all speed. 
How the man was able to go about with two crimes 
on his conscience, Darch found it impossible to guess. 
His nerve must have been extraordinary, as the 
young man thought, especially when he remembered 
Ralph's hilarit}^ on the night of the dinner party. 
He was certainly a villain, but an uncommonly 
bold one. 

jMelicent, warned by her lover, was careful not to 
recall to Lady Gibson the fact that Hurst was in 
possession of a bomb. Both she and Sylvia were 
horrified to hear of this fresh crime, and in consider- 
ing it. Lady Gibson forgot about the bomb. If she 
had dwelt on the subject, and thought that Ralph 
would use the same, she would have been frightened 
out of her senses. As it was, she felt very much afraid, 
and Jupp had to be brought to her room to console 
her with a promise of his speedy capture. But this 
was making bad worse, for the poor woman immedi- 
ately believed that, when in the hands of the law. 
Hurst would give away her secret. She became so 
agitated that Smith liad to be sent for again, and 
he managed to pacify her more or less. Finally he 
induced her to go to bed, and take another sleeping 
draught. This settled things for the time being, as 
she fell into a deep slumber, and the two girls re- 
mained in the room, watching beside her bedside. 
Darch was thankful to get Melicent to stay with 
Sylvia, as he wished to have a talk with Inspector 
Jupp over the present aspect of affairs. Toby, of 
course, was still in attendance on Mam'zel Clarice, 



296 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

who was as sound asleep as Lady Gibson appeared 
to be. So everything was all right in both these 
directions, and Miles was able to turn his attention 
to Jupp. 

For Melicent's sake, the young man was anxious 
to hush up matters with regard to Ralph's wicked- 
ness. But this was clearly impossible. Although 
the Inspector had said nothing about the confession 
to the outside public, rumour had immediately re- 
ported Hurst to be the murderer of his brother, 
because he had disappeared. Then, owing to the 
presence of the blacksmith when the body was 
found, the murder of Mrs. Frint could not be con- 
cealed. It was believed that Ralph had murdered 
her also, and on that evening the whole village was 
in an uproar. Every one discussed the flight of the 
man and his abominable conduct, building up fresh 
stories of horror on insufficient foundations. The 
London and local reporters, who still lurked about 
the place, were scribbling as fast as they could, and 
wired to their respective papers promising fresh 
revelations regarding the mystery of the Black Image. 
For many centuries Grenacer had been a quiet, un- 
known village. Now, owing to the tragedies, it 
leaped into sudden fame. It was talked about in 
the newspapers ; it was given a place on the map ; 
and from one end of the kingdom to the other men- 
tion was being made of the crimes which had earned 
it so widespread and evil a reputation. Like Lord 
Byron, the village awoke to find itself famous, 
although not in an agreeable way. 

Jupp came to the consultation in the library 
after dinner with an air of exultation, and sat 
down to produce a long blue envelope out of his 
pocket. 

"Do you know what this is?" he asked the 
barrister, 



NEMESIS^ 297 

" No ! " retorted Miles, rather snappishly, for his 
nerves were worn thin by constant unpleasant sur- 
prises. " More trouble ? " 

" In one way, yes ; in another way, no," answered 
Jupp with a shrug. " I now know what a complete 
scoundrel Hurst is, and at the same time the know- 
ledge will help me to arrive at some conclusion how 
to put things straight." 

" I hope you will be able to put them straight," 
sighed the lawyer, " for I am getting quite dazed 
with all this worry." 

" Very naturally, very naturally. However, I 
won't keep you in suspense any longer." He drew 
several sheets of foolscap from the envelope. " This 
is the full confession of Mrs. Print as to her dealings 
with that blackguard — and he is a blackguard," said 
Jupp, frowning, " one of the worst." 

" It didn't need Mrs. Print's confession to tell me 
that, Jupp. Where did you find it ? " 

" In the pocket of her dress. I didn't examine 
the clothes for some time, but after Smith looked 
at the body I went up, with two of my men, and 
searched her pockets. I found this," he tapped the 
loose sheets. " Evidently she anticipated that 
Hurst, driven into a corner, might murder her, and 
so wrote out all she knew about him. This state- 
ment clears Mam'zel Clarice completely, as Hurst 
confessed to his wife that he murdered his brother 
in order to get possession of the property, if possible." 

" And Melicent ? Does the confession say that he 
intended to murder Melicent ? " 

" It does. But Hurst never told his wife so. She 
only suspected it, because of his saying that he 
wanted the family property. Por that reason she 
did her best to save the girl, and got that boy to 
help her." 

" Read it," 



298 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" No ; I'll tell it, and 3'ou can read it for yourself 
later." Jupp replaced the loose sheets in the en- 
velope and began his story. " It seems that Mrs. 
Print was born in the village and lived all her life 
at the Hall, beginning as a nursemaid and ending 
as the housekeeper. She was a pretty girl, and 
Hurst, who seemed to have had a keen eye for 
beauty, married her." 

" I thought John Frint, the bailiff, did." 

" That was a blind. Ralph explained that as he 
had run through his money and was dependent on 
his brother for bread and butter, he could not make 
the marriage public without losing everything. Mrs. 
Frint — we can still continue to call her so — was 
madly in love with the man, and agreed to conceal 
the marriage until such time as it could be revealed 
with safety. She M'ent to London pretending to be 
married to John Frint, and really was married to 
Ralph Hurst. Frint was bribed by Hurst to go to 
America, and there, after some years, he died. The 
woman returned to the Hall as Mrs. Frint, and 
afterwards Hurst returned too, in order to look after 
the estate as his brother's bailiff. The position 
remained thus for many years." 

" But why didn't Mrs. Frint object ? If she was 
lawfull}^ Ralph's wife I can't see why she should have 
been content with the position of housekeeper." 

" Well, 3'ou never know women," drawled the 
Inspector with a shrug. " Ralph, it seems, was her 
master, and rather a tyrant. She adored him and 
obeyed him in every way. He was always promising 
her that he would acknowledge the marriage as soon 
as he could do so with safety. In one way and 
another he managed to get her to hold her tongue." 

" And the announcement of Hurst's engagement to 
Sylvia ? " 

" I'm coming to that. Let us proceed in due 



NEMESIS. 299 

order," said Jupp quickly. " In the first place, 
Hurst was very angry when he heard that his brother 
was to marry Miss Gibson. But we know all about 
that and how he acted from the statement of Mam'zel 
Clarice." 

Miles nodded. " Let us come to the murder of 
the Squire." 

" Mrs. Print did not see it, but she forced a con- 
fession from Hurst." 

" How did she manage that ? " 

" Well, 3^ou know that the window of her first 
bedroom overlooked the Sanctuary. On the night 
of the murder Mrs. Print was suspicious of her hus- 
band and watched him. Though, for the matter 
of that," added Jupp, " she was always suspicious 
and always watchful, which can scarcely be 
wondered at." 

" I agree, considering how he treated her. Well ? " 

" Well, Mrs. Print, watching from her bedroom 
wmdow, could see the light streaming from the 
Squire's study into the Sanctuary, and knew that 
her master was still staying up reading. Then she 
thought she heard a cry and opened her window to 
listen. She saw Ralph carry a body to the statue 
and shut it up in it." 

" But did she know that the statue was hollow ? " 

" Yes," said the Inspector, promptly and un- 
expectedly. " It seems that Hurst, as we guessed, 
by poking about amongst the family papers, learned 
the secret of the statue. Mrs. Print came upon hiin 
unexpectedly in the library reading the document, 
and told him that the Squire wished to see him. 
That was why she came, but when Hurst left the 
library she looked at the document. It consisted nt 
several loose sheets, and Ralph had apparently read 
two. The third one she took awav." 

"Why?" 



300 THE BLACK IMAGE 

" Well, the first two sheets told what we know 
about the opening of the image and the way in which 
the hand could be opened and shut. The remaining 
sheet said that there was a kind of sliding trap-door 
immediately under the feet of Hecate in the plat- 
form. When this was drawn aside, by means of a 
winch worked from the other side of the platform, 
it gave access to a cave. And it seemed that when 
Amyas Hurst shut up his victims in the statue, later 
on he opened the trap-door and they fell into the 
cave below. Then he took the bodies to the Gren, 
through the cave, and sank them, with stones, to 
the bottom." 

" Horrible," said Miles with dismay, and shudder- 
ing. " So that was how people disappeared in 
Amyas Hurst's day ? " 

Jupp nodded. " The man seemed to have gone 
mad and wished to revenge his wife, for it was owing 
to the clamour of the villagers that she was burnt 
as a witch. There is another exit from the cave, 
which opens on to the bank of the Gren, and through 
this Amyas Hurst dragged his victims. Being 
weighted with stones, of course they sank to the 
bottom of the stream and were never found again." 

"I see ; but why did Mrs, Print take away the 
third sheet ? " 

" Because she doubted her husband and believed 
that he might make some bad use of the informa- 
tion. He had already read the first two sheets 
describing the mechanism of that horrible statue, so 
it was useless to take those But he had not read 
the last sheet, which revealed the whereaboutsj of 
the cave and the fact that all details of the same 
were engraved on the scroll in the hands of the 
image." 

" So Ralph never knew about the cave or the 
scroll." 



NEMESIS. 301 

" No ; he accused Mrs. Frint of removing the 
third sheet, but she swore that she had not touched 
it, and he had to hold his tongue about the loss, as 
she said she would tell the Squire about the matter 
if he made trouble. So you see, Mr. Darch, that 
Mrs. Frint knew that the statue was hollow, and 
quite understood that her husband was hiding a 
body in the same." 

"Did she know the body was that of Mam'zel 
Clarice ? " 

" No ; she believed it was that of the Squire. 
She hurried down and found the door of the study 
locked — you remember that Mam'zel said she locked 
the door in her confession. Hurst heard her knock- 
ing and fled. He climbed up the ladder, over the 
wall, and down by the chestnut tree. Then he 
took Mam'zel's motor-cycle she had left by his 
instructions on the verge of the wood, and rode 
to London." 

" WTiat did Mrs. Frint do ? " 

" She remembered the cave and believed that she 
could get hold of the Squire's body to hide it lest her 
husband should be accused. Remember, so far she 
believed it ivas the Squire's body which was hidden 
in the statue. She ran upstairs and wakened Jum 
to help her. Then the two got out of the house by 
the postern and hurried round to the wood. Mrs. 
Frint already knew where the entrance to the cave 
was and how to lift the stone, as she had made an 
examination shortly after reading the third sheet. 
Along with Jum she entered the cave, worked the 
winch, and Mam'zel Clarice fell into the cave." 

" Much to Mrs. Frint's astonishment," said Miles, 
greatly excited over the story, which certainly was 
wild enough. 

" Yes ; she expected to find the Squire. How- 
ever, discovering that the woman was only stunned, 



302 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

she and Jum carried her back to the house and hid 
her in Mrs. Print's bedroom. Then she was trans- 
ferred to the garrets when the housekeeper changed 
her bedroom. You know the rest." 

Miles nodded. " \Miy didn't Mrs. Print tell her 
husband ? " 

" She doubted him and wished to have a weapon 
with which to control him. So she said nothing, 
for the time being, and made Jum hold his tongue. 
I expect in the long run she would have told the 
truth. But meanwhile she did tell Hurst that she 
had seen him carr^dng a body to the statue, and 
forced him to admit having committed the crime." 

" Wasn't Hurst astonished b^^ the disappearance 
of the woman's body ? " 

" Yes ; he taxed his wife with removing it, since 
he knew she had read the two sheets of the manu- 
script. She did not tell him that Mam'zel Clarice 
was alive and in her bedroom, but said that she had 
taken the body from the statue and had sunk it in 
the river. She wanted to keep Mam'zel in reserve 
as a v.'-eapon against Hurst, you see. And when 
Hurst became engaged to Miss Gibson she swore 
that she would produce evidence that he had killed 
his brother unless he acknowledged the marriage 
with herself." 

" Did Ralph then suspect that Mam'zel Clarice 
was alive ? " 

"Oh, yes! Mrs. Print told him afterwards, but 
refused to say where she was hidden. Ralph then 
said that if she would go to London he would later 
acknowledge the marriage. As you know, he dis- 
missed her and drove her to the station." 

" And then ? " 

" Then the statement ends. But I expect Mrs. 
Print came back and was murdered by the beast 
since she knew enough to hang him twice over," 



xNEMESIS. 303 

" \M\y didn't Jum, who was devoted to his aunt, 
work the trap door under the statue and discover 
the murder ? " 

" Because I don't beHeve he knew that Mrs. Print 
was dead. He thought, as we all did, that she had 
gone to London, since Hurst drove her to Brant. I 
don't know what to make of the bo}^" added Jupp, 
scratching his head. " It seems to me that he is in 
league with Hurst since he went away with him." 

" I don't think so. He loved his aunt too much. 
I believe the bo}^ is sticking to Hurst so as to hand 
him over in the long run to you." 

" It might be so," said Jupp doubtfully ; " but 
I have my own opinion, and it doesn't agree with 
yours, Mr. Darch." 

" Jum asked me to trust him," said the barrister 
firmly, " and I'm going to trust him." 

" Well, we'll see," Jupp rose. " Meanwhile, let 
us have a look at the cave to-morrow. I'd like to 
see the whole devilish conta-ivance." 

" So should I" replied Darch, with a yawn. 
" Your story is very interesting, Mr. Inspector, but 
I don't see how it straightens out things as you said 
it would." 

" At all events this confession proves Mam'zel 
Clarice to be completely innocent," snapped Jupp, 
rather discomposed. 

" Yes ; but it doesn't enable us to capture Hurst, 
and that's the main thing, Mr. Inspector. He has 
that bomb, you know, and may blow up the Hall at 
any moment. I wish we could get hold of Jum. He 
would be able to tell us where Hurst is hiding." 

Darch finished with another yawn and then gave 
a cry of surprise, which was echoed by the Inspector. 
As if in answer to his name, Jum crept into the 
room, a grimy, ragged little figure, thin and pale. 
With a gasp of relief he saw Darch and the officer, 



304 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

tottering towards them rather than walking, for so 
worn out was the lad that he could scarcely stand. 
He staggered towards the lawyer and clutched his 
arm fiercely. 

" Come with me, sir. I've got him." 

" Hurst," shouted the Inspector, recovering from 
his surprise. 

" Yes ; I stuck to him and guided him to a hiding- 
place that I knew so that I could get him arrested." 

" The cave ? " said Darch suddenly. 

" Do you know of the cave, sir ? " 

" Yes, I — here, Jum, drink this wine or you'll 
faint." Miles hastily poured out a glass of port from 
a bottle which Jupp had been enjoying during the 
conversation and passed it to the boy. 

" Is Hurst in that cave under the statue ? " asked 
Jupp impatiently, while the boy drank the wine, of 
which he stood in much need. 

" Yes ; I took him there, sir. We climbed over 
the walls of the Sanctuary when Mr. Ralph heard 
Mam'zel was able to talk. I took him to the cave, 
pretending to be his friend. He believed me at first, 
but afterwards he became suspicious, and when I 
wanted to go out he wouldn't let me. But he fell 
asleep, and I managed to escape and " 

" You can tell the rest another time, my boy," said 
Jupp, hurrying to the door. " In the meantime, 
come and show me where this cave is. I must get 
my men." 

Jum was more in need of rest and food than any- 
thing else, but the wine had put new life into him, 
and with an indomitable spirit he promised to lead 
the way to the mysterious cave. All the time he 
clung to Darch' s hand and guided Jupp with his five 
men to the spot. They went down the avenue, along 
the wall of the park and entered the wood surround- 
ing the walls of the Sanctuary. Here, on the side 



NEMESIS. 305 

facing the river, Jum pointed to a large moss-grown 
stone, beneath which no one would have suspected 
a cavity. He also hauled out of the underwood a 
handle which could be fitted on to a square nut. 
The nut itself was the square-cut end of a shaft in the 
wall. The mechanism to raise the stone was similar 
to that which had opened the image of Hecate, 
primitive, but good enough for its purpose. Jupp 
immediatel}^ got to work, but not without a warning 
from the boy. 

" He's got a bomb," said Jum faintly, " and he'll 
use — use — it," his voice trailed away into a weak 
whisper, and he fell fainting on the ground, worn 
out by privation and excitement. Darch picked the 
little hero up in his arms. Jupp, undaunted by the 
warning, soon had the stone raised and ventured 
himself down the steps which were revealed. But 
scarcely had he set his foot on the first step when 
there came a hollow boom, and he was fairly blown 
out of the cavity. The boom was followed by a roar 
and from beyond the walls masses of earth and trees 
and stones and lead were thrown up. The tre- 
m.endous explosion shook the whole place, and a 
vivid flare of red flame illuminated the dark sky far 
and wide. In a moment Darch guessed that Hurst, 
rather than be taken, had exploded the bomb and, 
with Jum in his arms, ran away. The policemen 
and detectives seized hold of the Inspector, who 
had been rendered insensible by the explosion, and 
fell back. They and Darch were just in time, for 
scarcely had they got to the verge of the wood than 
the wall of the Sanctuary fell with a loud crash, 
breaking the trees and scattering bricks everywhere. 
Then came a horrified pause. 

" The whole place is blown to bits," cried Darch, 
and laying Jum gently on the ground he ran forward 
followed by the men. 

U 



306 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

He was right. The roof of the cave had been 
blown out, the yew trees and cypress trees were torn 
down and tumbled about, w^hile the famous Black 
Image was shattered to atoms. And below all the 
debris lay the body of the rash villain who had dis- 
covered the secret of Amyas Hurst to his own 
undoing. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE_WHOLE TRUTH. 

GREAT as had been the sensation before the 
explosion, it was greater still after that 
catastrophe took place. In spite of the late 
hour the villagers from Grenacer flocked to the 
ruined Sanctuary, and it took all the efforts of the 
constables on guard to prevent them from meddling. 
And, of course, the policemen were not going to allow 
anything to be touched until their superior officer 
came to his senses. This did not take longer than 
an hour, for Jupp was only slightly stunned, having 
knocked his head against a tree-trunk when blown 
out of the cavity. When in full possession of his 
brain-power he bound a wet cloth round his head 
and directed operations. As the hour was late and 
the night was dark, nothing could be done until the 
morning. But the villagers still persisted in remaining 
near the Hall, and it is recorded in Grenacer chron- 
icles that no one went to bed that night. From 
the sleep of centuries the villagers had awakened 
thoroughly. The moral as well as the physical 
effects of the explosion shook them into active life. 
Therefore, as one of them remarked, it was a true 
proverb that said: "It's an ill wind that blows 
nobody any good." 
Next day the place was like Barnet Fair. From 

307 



3o8 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Serbery, from Brant, from all kinds of unknown 
hamlets in the surrounding country, people came on 
foot, on bicycles, and in vehicles of every descrip- 
tion. The news of the last phase of the crime was 
telegraphed to London by enthusiastic reporters, 
and with the early trains more reporters arrived, 
along with photographers belonging to weekly and 
daily illustrated papers. The village inn was filled 
with people w^ho meant to stay for a few days and 
see the thing out to its bitter end. That the end 
had really come never occurred to any one, since 
the case had gone on affording sensation after sensa- 
tion for so long. But this was the purely thought- 
less opinion of the general public, for Darch knew 
that everything was over once and for all. The 
Black Image, with its luck, bad and good, had 
disappeared, and with it disappeared all further 
trouble. 

The shock of the explosion startled Lady Gibson, 
and threw her into hysterics. But when she learned 
that Hurst was dead she revived wonderfully, and 
sent for Miles the first thing in the morning. To 
his surprise he found her quite her old self, 
although slightly older-looking. She was painted and 
powdered as of yore, beautifully dressed, and was 
as ready to shrug and use her lorgnette as ever. 
Darch expressed his surprise to Sylvia, who stood 
beside her mother with a brighter face than usual. 
Lady Gibson overheard his speech and laughed gaily. 
" My dear man, can't you see that everything is 
all right ? " she said, with her famous shrug. " Now 
that bad man is dead no one will ever know the 
secret about my early marriage save you and I, 
Sylvia and Struma." 

" Will Struma hold his tongue ? " 
" Oh, yes ! " Lady Gibson waved her lorgnette 
lightly. " He never meant to tell that horrid 



THE WHOLE TRUTH. 309 

creature as it was. Ralph wormed the secret out 
of him and lield it over me in the abominable way 
you know of. But, thank heaven, he is dead and 
^\dll never be my son-in-law." 

"And who is to be your son-in-law, Lady Gibson ? " 
asked Miles seriously. 

" Why, Toby Smith, of course. Oh, 3'es, I call 
him Tob}/ now, though it does sound like the name 
of a French poodle ! I have learned a lesson, Miles," 
she became grave, " and although I speak lightly I 
am deeply thankful to Providence for saving me 
from shame and S3^1via from that horrible marriage. 
Poor as Toby is, I am quite willing that he should 
marry my daughter. Although," Lady Gibson 
shrugged and became frivolous again, " goodness 
only knows how we are to manage things. I can 
see nothing before us but the Bankruptcy Court. I 
haven't a shilling." 

" I don't think j-ou'll go through the Bankruptcy' 
Court," said Darch, smiling, as he thought of Uncle 
George and his little plot. 

" How nice of you to say so; but miracles don't 
occur nowadays." 

" I think they do," said Miles dryly ; " if you will 
think over the events of the last month or so." 

" I don't want to think of them," said Lady 
Gibson, with a shiver. " That policeman Jupp has 
told me and Sylvia and Mclicent the whole story 
from first to last. It's horrible." 

" So horrible that I wish he hadn't said anything 
to Melicent. She has had so much to bear that this 
new knowledge will break her down." 

" Oh, no, it won't ! She is relieved by the death 
of her uncle, as we all are, for it would have been 
disagreeable had he lived to be hanged. Melicent 
said that you refused to tell her the story after the 
explosion, and sent her to bed." 



310 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" I did. I thought it was best she should sleep." 

" I don't think any one of us slept," said Sylvia 
wearily ; " and Melicent went downstairs to see the 
Inspector as soon as it was light. She brought him 
up here, as my mother was anxious to hear the truth, 
and he told us all." 

" And you would have heard it also if you hadn't 
been asleep, Miles," said Lady Gibson with great 
vivacity. 

" You forget that I knew all the story before the 
explosion took place," was Darch's reply. " What 
are you going to do, Lad}' Gibson ? " 

" Return to town to-day," she answered promptl}'. 
" I really cannot stay here after all these horrors. 
Then Toby can come to town in a few days, and we 
can arrange about the wedding. You should get 
married at the same time. Miles, as I am sure 
Melicent can't be left alone in this dreadful place." 

" I intend to persuade Melicent to consent to an 
early wedding," said Darch with a smile, and then 
left the room, to fmd Smith and congratulate him 
on the behaviour of Lady Gibson regarding his 
romance with Sjdvia. 

To Darch's surprise he found not only Toby but 
Uncle George. The old merchant had returned 
from Paris on the previous day, and on hearing of 
the stirring events at Grenacer he had come down 
by an early train. 

" Were you successful in finding out an}'thing in 
Paris ? " asked Darch. 

" About Lady Gibson's secret ? " answered Uncle 
George. " Oh, no ! I found that Hurst told a lie 
about Mam'zel having been in the secret service of 
the French police. She never had anything to do 
with them, so how Hurst learned the secret I can't 
say, no more than I can guess why he told a lie 
about the woman." 



THE WHOLE TRUTH. 311 

"It was all part of the plot to implicate Mam'zel in 
the murder," said Miles musingly. "He wished to 
give her the credit for his man^^ evil inventions, in 
the hope that they would bring her to the scaffold 
and save himself. An ordinary woman would not 
have thought of such things, but a woman who had 
been in the secret service abroad might." 

Toby nodded. " I quite see Hurst's idea," he 
said, "and I may as well tell you, Miles, that Mam'zel 
is now all right. She only needs nursing to be quite 
herself, as she won't lose her senses again. I taxed 
her with being in the French secret service, and she 
denied that she had been. Hurst said she was, so 
as to account for the clever way in which the crime 
was executed, presumably by her. Poor creature, 
I am glad she escaped in spite of her folly with regard 
10 the Squire, which really is at the root of all the 
trouble." 

"That man was a fiend," said Uncle George 
vigorously ; " and this secret of Lady Gibson's 
Avhich he knew " 

" Oh, it really wasn't a secret," broke in Miles, 
telling a very white lie to shield the poor woman. 
" Hurst threatened to murder her unless she con- 
sented to his marrying her daughter." 

" Oh, that was the reason, was it ? " said the old 
man, accepting the explanation in all good faith, 
" Well, he was quite capable of doing it, seeing how- 
he murdered his wife and brother and then blew 
himself up. I'm sorry I didn't sec the statue, 
however," added Uncle George with real regret. 
" It must have been very interesting." 

" Very," assented Miles grimly. " All the same, 
I'm glad it has been destroyed." 

" So am I," added Toby. " And I'm glad 
also that Hnrst is dead. We're just going up to 
see Lady Gibson and Sylvia, Miles. Don't you 



312 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

think that they are both lookmg surprisingly well, 
considering." 

" Oh, yes ! " Miles assented readily enough. " They 
seem to have awakened from a nightmare," and 
privately, the young man thought that they had. 

So while Toby and his uncle went upstairs, Miles 
sought the dining-room, where Melicent was giving 
the Inspector his breakfast. Jupp looked wonder- 
fully bright and lively in spite of his bandaged 
head. Like every one else he was thankful that 
the myster}' of the crimes and of the statue had 
been solved. WTiile eating he commented on the 
matter. 

" I assure you, Darch, this case is the most 
wonderful within my experience, and I have been 
congratulating Miss Hurst on its end," he said, 
nodding towards Melicent, who still looked pale and 
worn. 

" We have all reason for congratulation," said 
Miles, walking round the table to sit by the girl and 
take her hand. "Try and cheer up, Melicent. 
Bad as things have been, we have much cause to be 
thankful. If your uncle had lived he would have 
met with a worse fate." 

" Yes ! I'm glad that he had the courage to kill 
himself," she said faintly ; " although it sounds 
horrible to say so." 

" Well, Miss Hurst," Jupp reached for the mar- 
malade as he spoke, " I'm glad for yoiu* sake that 
he killed himself, as it would have been disagreeable 
for you to have a relative hanged. But I'm sox-ry 
for my own. The case would have made a sensation 
had he been tried for the two murders." 

" I don't know what greater sensation you ex- 
pected it to make," said Miles, raising his eyebrows. 
" The village is crowded with people from all quarters 
and your men can hardly keep them out of the park. 



THE WHOLE TRUTH. 313 

However, let us hope it will only be a nine days' 
wonder, and that soon Grenacer will quieten down." 

" It won't quieten down until the inquest is held 
on Mrs. Print and on the remains we have found of 
Hurst," said the Inspector. " He blew himself up, 
and the image along with him, very thoroughly." 

" Oh, don't ! " murmured Melicent, turning white. 

" Sorry, Miss Hurst," said Jupp, who was really 
good-natured, " my tongue runs awa}?- with me at 
times. I think, if you don't mind my offering 
advice, that you should leave this place for a time," 

" She will leave it with me when we are married," 
said the barrister ; " and while we are away the 
Sanctuary can be put right." 

" How put right ? " asked Jupp, rising from the 
table. 

" All the remaining trees will be pulled down, the 
walls will be levelled to the ground, and when the 
ruins are removed we will plant a garden there. I 
suggest doing this if you will agree, Melicent." 

" Oh, yes! " she said, the colour returning to her 
face. " I want to see the whole place changed. 
i3ut tell me, Mr. Jupp, what's to be done now ? " 

" Nothing that need worry you," said the In- 
spector kindly. " Try and rest after all your 
trouble, Miss Hurst. I'll arrange all about the 
inquests, and settle things. Lady Gibson and her 
daughter return to town to-day as there is no need 
for them to stay here. Mam'zel Clarice, the doctor 
says, is getting well, and will be able to go away hi a 
few days." 

" I intend to give her a good sum of money with 
which to return to Paris and find employment," 
said Melicent, flushing. " I'm sorry for the poor 
creature." 

" So am I, as sorry as I am for Mrs. Print. Botli 
thoie women suffered much at the hands of your 



314 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

uncle. Extraordinary," mused Jupp, pinching his 
chin. 

" WTiat is extraordinary ? " asked Miles, surprised. 

" The way in which that man changed. I knew 
him well for years and he was always a student, shut 
up in his library. A quiet, harmless creature." 

" Scarcely, Jupp. All the time he was pretending 
to be a harmless creature he was married to that 
poor woman and was plotting how to get rid of his 
brother, secure the property and marry Miss Gibson." 

" Quite so," said Jupp, then fixed his eyes on 
Melicent : " Do you really think that he arranged 
those accidents. Miss Hurst, so as to get rid of 
you ? " 

" Yes." Melicent clasped her hands. " Jum told 
me. I went to see him this morning, and he is much 
better after a night's sleep, although still weak." 

" Curious he should be so, since he told me he had 
taken food to the cave before he inveigled Hurst 
there." 

"It's the shock and the horror of the whole busi- 
ness that has weakened him, Mr. Jupp. But he said 
that Uncle Ralph told him to buy a pea-shooter and 
peas, and then told him to come up the stairs, where 
he playfully made a snatch at the bag and scattered 
the peas." 

" Who snatched — Jum or your uncle ? " 

" Uncle Ralph. He pretended that he wanted the 
bag, and snatched. It burst and the peas were 
scattered. Uncle Ralph said that Jum needn't pick 
them up, and Jum suspected his motive. So did 
Mrs. Frint, and they watched over me. I slipped 
on the landing at the top of the stairs and saved 
myself. But if I had tried to come down Jum would 
have prevented me." 

" Why didn't he warn you ? " 

" Mrs. Frint wouldn't let him lest I should suspect 



I 



THE WHOLE TRUTH. 315 

Uncle Ralph and get him into trouble. She wanted 
to save him, as he vras her husband, but she always 
intended to save me also." 

"Hum, I see! And the fallen branch of the 
elm ? " 

" That was sawn through, Jum says. When 
Uncle Ralph pretended to go to the vicarage he 
really was in the wood behind me holding a string 
attached to the branch. As soon as I was seated 
he pulled the string and the branch came down. 
But Jum, who was watching, saved me." 

" Yes, I remember," said Miles, deeply interested. 
" And then your uncle came running round the 
corner to scold you for sitting under the tree ; to 
remove the string, I suppose, and have the fallen 
branch cut up." 

" He did more than that," said the girl with a 
shudder. " He climbed the tree himself after dusk 
and splintered the sawn branch — that is, the place 
where he had sawn the branch off." 

" Well, you've had narrow escapes, Miss Hurst," 
said Jupp, " and should be glad that your uncle is 
dead. Jum ought to be rewarded. I'd do some- 
thing for the boy myself, if needs be, for I suspected 
him wrongly He was on our side all the time." 

" He was," said Darch positivel}'. " His pre- 
tended reconciliation with Hurst was only to get 
friendly with him again so that he could watch him 
< asily. We owe a lot to Jum, and I shall repay him 
by getting him into a lawyer's office. He wants to 
be a solicitor." 

" And he'll make a good one," said Jupp heartily. 
" More power to his elbow." 

The next week was a busy one. The inquests were 
held ; the body of Mrs. Print and what remained of 
her wicked husband were buried, and after long 
and picturesque accounts of the hnal pliases of the 



3x6 THE BLACK IMAGE. 

Black Image mystery appeared in many papers, the 
excitement died down. Tbie tide of human life that 
had flooded Grenacer receded and the village was 
left to its somnolent existence. Yet it was less 
somnolent than of yore, for the late excitement had 
awakened the population to life, and they took 
greater interest in the world beyond their borders. 
But they did not wish to have another shaking up 
of the same kind. The crimes of Ralph Hurst, and 
the legend of the statue, were enough to serve them 
with food for gossip year in and year out for many 
a long day. 

Sylvia and Toby were married almost immediately, 
as Uncle George insisted that the ceremony should 
take place as soon as possible. Lady Gibson was 
quite willing, e\-en before she knew of the income 
which Toby was to have, for late events had rendered 
her much more reasonable and sensible. But it was 
a great relief to her vrhen Uncle George generously 
paid her debts and arranged that she should be 
allowed a certain 3'early income. Tahinos came 
forward again to court Sylvia, but Lady Gibson 
would not hear of any one becoming her son-in-law 
but Toby, to whom she had taken a great fancy. 
With a splendid income, a charming wife, and his 
own talents, which were considerable, Toby set up 
practice in Harley Street, and bid fair to become 
quite a famous and fashionable doctor. The young 
couple were very happy, and were always grateful 
to Uncle George, who continued to act the fairy- 
godfather on all and every occasion. And Lady 
Gibson was likewise agreeable and complimentary, 
growing prouder and prouder of her children and 
grandchildren as the years went by. Adversity had 
done her good. 

In due time, also, Melicent became Mrs. Darch. 
She and Miles were married in the A'illage church, 



THE WHOLE TRUTH. 317 

and Jum was conspicuous at the wedding. The boy 
was sent by the 3^oung couple to school for a few 
years, and from thence it was intended he should be 
taken to London and placed in a solicitor's office. 
So Jum's future was assured, for Melicent thought 
that she could not do enough for him, seeing that he 
had saved her life. But once Jum was settled as a 
respectable member of society, under his o^^•n name 
of Frederick Marr, Melicent shunned talking of the 
past. Along with her husband she went for a long 
tour round the world, and it was quite two years 
before they returned to the Hall. Then the villagers 
welcomed them with flags and flowers, with addresses 
and many compliments, rejoiced to have their Lady 
of the Manor back in their midst. Miles, who had 
lived so long in Grenacer, was also a great favourite, 
and the reign of the new rural king and queen pro- 
mised to be glorious and peaceful. During their 
i>.bsence the house had been redecorated and the 
grounds put to rights. So thus it came about that 
after dinner Mr. and Mrs. Darch stood at the door 
of the late Squire's study looking, not at the Sanc- 
tuary with its gloomy yews and grim Black Image, 
but at a circle of quick-growing trees, through the 
branches of which couM be seen the gleam of the 
river. And there were smooth green lawns and beds 
of roses in full bloom, so that the place looked like 
a fairyland. Melicent said so, and her husband 
agreed. 

" It is a place of life now," he said, with his arm 
round her waist. " It was a place of death when we 
left." 

" Don't talk of it," cried Mrs. Darch with a shiver. 
" I never wish to recall that horrible image." 

" Yet, if the statue had not been blown up, I doubt 
if you would have consented to its removal," said 
Miles, laughing. 



3iS THE BLACK IMAGE. 

" Perhaps not. All the same, I am glad it is gone. 
It was built for an evil purpose, and brought nothing 
but evil." 

" Well, it's gone, and has taken its evil with it. 
Don't let us talk of the past, Melicent darling, but 
look to the future. We have health, wealth and a 
charming home, together with love, which is the 
best thing of all. But we must not be idle, dearest. 
You shall be the Lady Bountiful of the village, and 
I shall go daily to London to renew my attempts to 
be Lord Chancellor." 

" So long as I have you," said Melicent, resting 
her head against his breast, " it matters little what 
3'ou are. Still, M-e must work." 

" Of course. And see what a good omen that 
golden sunset is for our future, dear. When we last 
saw this place it was a heap of ruins under a dark 
and dismal sky. Now it is glorious with colour and 
splendid with golden light." 

" And the Black Image was " 

" Not a v/ord about that horrible statue," said 
Miles, stopping her mouth with a kiss. " Come to 
the drawing-room and let us talk of our future. 
Sylvia and Toby are happy ; Jum is happy. Let 
us be happy also." 

" I always am with you," said Melicent, and then 
they exchanged another kiss before re-entering 
the house, leaving the rose-garden bathed in golden 
splendour to wait for the coming shadows of night. 



THE END. 



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terization, and criminality are skilfully blended, is always to be 
found in all Mr. White's work. 

A HARBOUR OF REFUGE. 

THE SENTENCE OF THE COURT. 

HARD PRESSED. 

A ROYAL WRONG. 

THE HOUSE OF MAMMON. 

A SHADOWED LOVE. 

THE POWERS OF DARKNESS. 

PAUL QUENTIN. 

THE SALT OF THE EARTH. 

AMBITION'S SLAVE. 

THE ENDS OF JUSTICE. 

A SOCIETY JEZEBEL. 



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